Skip to main content

Full text of "The dead letter, an American romance"

See other formats


THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

GIFT OF 

California State Library 




Pfe 18| 



THE PORTRAIT. 



THE 



DEAD LETTER 



AN AMERICAN ROMANCE. 



BY SEELKY REGESTER. 



YORK: 

BEADLE AND COMPANY, 

118 WILLIAM STREET. 
1867. 



Entered according to Act of Con?*. In the je*r 19M, by 

BEADLR AND COMPANY. 

In the Clerk'8 Office of the District Court of the United SUtM for th 
Southern District of Now York. 



CONTENTS PAKT I. 



CHAPTER I. 
THE LETTER, 9 

CHAPTER II. 
EVENTS OF A NIGHT, 11 

CHAPTER IH. 
THE FIGURE BENEATH THE TREES, 23 

CHAPTER IV. 
MORELAND VILLA, - 34 

CHAPTER V. 
MR. BURTON, THE DETECTIVE, .... 49 

CHAPTER VI. 
Two LINKS IN THE CHAIN, ... - 72 

CHAPTER VII. 

ELEANOR, - 86 

CHAPTER VHI. 
THE HAUNTED GRAVE, .... - 94 

CHAPTER IX. 
THE SPIDER AND THE FLY, - - - - 114 

CHAPTER X. 
THE ANNIVERSARY, 132 

CHAPTER XI. 
THE LITTLE GUEST AND THE APPARITION, - 154 

CHAPTER XII. 
THE NIGHT IN MORELAND VILLA, - - - 176 

CHAPTER XIII. 
THE SHADOW ASSUMES SHAPE, - - - 188 



832734 



VI CONTENTS. 

PART II. 

CHAPTER L 
THE LETTER, 199 

CHAPTER II. 
OUR VISITS, 212 

CHAPTER HI. 
THE CONFESSION, 228 

CHAPTER IV. 
EMBARKED FOR CALIFORNIA, .... 243 

CHAPTER V. 
ON THE TRAIL, 252 

CHAPTER VI. 

AT LAST AT LAST, 261 

CHAPTER VH. 

Now FOR HOME AGAIN, 278 

CHAPTER VIII. 
THE RIPE HOUR, 383 

CHAPTER IX. 
JOINING THE MISSING LINKS, - - - - 290 

CHAPTER X. 
THE NEW LIFE, - 305 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 

BAFFLED, 04 

ELEANOR, 90 

" WKI.I., HOW DO YOU LOUS MT LOOKS?" - 161 

THE PORTRAIT Frontispiece, 183 

IN THE OAK, ... % ... 223 

"I NEVER ACCUSED YOU," .... 297 



THE DEAD LETTER 




PART I. 



THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE LETTER. 

I PAUSED suddenly in my work. Over a yeai % 's experi- 
ence in the Dead Letter office had given a mechanical 
rapidity to my movements in opening, noting and clas- 
sifying the contents of the bundles before me ; and, so 
far from there being any thing exciting to the curiosity, 
or interesting to the mind, in the employment, it was 
of the most monotonous character. 

Young ladies whose love letters have gone astray, 
evil men whose plans have been confided in writing to 
their confederates, may feel but little apprehension of 
the prying eyes of the Department ; nothing attracts 
it but objects of material value sentiment is below 
par ; it gives attention only to such tangible interests 
as are represented by bank-bills, gold-pieces, checks, 
jewelry, miniatures, et cetera. Occasionally a grave 
clei'k smiles sardonically at the ridiculous character of 
some of the articles which come to light ; sometimes, 
perhaps, looks thoughtfully at a withered rosebud, or 
bunch of pressed violets, a homely little pin-cushion, or 
a book-mark, wishing it had reached its proper destina- 
tion. I can not answer for other employees, who may 
not have even this amount of heart and imagination to 
invest in the dull business of a Government office ; but 
when I was in the Department I was guilty, at inter- 
vals, of such folly yet I passed for the coldest, most 
cynical man of them all. 

The letter which 1 held in ray paralyzed fingers when 
they so abruptly ceased their dexterous movements, 
was contained in a closely-sealed envelope, yellowed by 



10 DEAD LETTER. 

time, and directed in a peculiar hand to "John Owen, 
kill, New York," and the date on the stamp was 
"October 18th, 1857" making tin- letter tuo years 
old. I know not what mairnetism paved from it, 
putting me, as tin- spirituaii-ts -ay. // fifjmrt with it; 
I hail not yet cut the lappet ; ami tin- only thing I 
could fix upon as the cause of my attraction was that 
at the date indicated on the envelope, I had leen a. 
resident of niankville, twenty miles from IVekskill 
and something about that date ! 

this was 1. 1) excuse for my agitation ; I was not 
of an inquisitive disposition; nor did ''John <)\ven" 
belong to the circle of my acquaintance. I sat there 
with such a strange expression ujiou my lace, tliat ono 
of my fellows, remark'niLf my mood, exclaimed jest iii'_rly : 
"What is it, KedtiYM ? A check lor a hundred 

thoii<:. 

"I am sure I don't know; I haven't opened it." 1 
answered, at random: and \\itli this I cut the \\rapper, 
impelled 1 iy some strongly-defined, irresistible iidhienr.' I o 
read ihe time-stained sheet inclosed. It ran in this \\ i^e : 



It's too bad to disappoint you. ('mild 
. r order, as e\ei\l.d\ concerneil will 
dici,\er. \\'liat a charmiiii.' day I- ^nod lor taking :i 
]iicture. That old friend 1 iutrodnee.l \..M to 
tell talc*, and you had not better bother youisi-lf to 
vi^it him. The next time you find \nur-elf i'n his anus, 
don't t'ccl in his left-hand pocket lor the broken tooth- 
pick which I lent him. lie U welcome to it. If you're 
at the place of pmneiit, I shan't be there, not ha\iii 
fulfilled the order, and having LMVCII up m\ enii-iation 
project, much airain-t my will: so, ^"Nfi'ii \oiir-e!f 
accordingly. Sorry your p pt"r, and 

M ith the j. r i- lbl -teem. 

\X dl-appo'mted 



To explain why this brief epistle, neither lucid nor 
inteivMm;; iu it^-lf, shoiil.l all'ect me as it did. I must 
go back to the time at which it was written. 



A STOEM COMING UP. 11 



CHAPTER II. 

EVENTS OF A 3TIGHT. 

IT was late in the afternoon of a cloudy, windy au- 
tumn day, that I left the office of John Argyll, Esq., 
in his company, to take tea and spend the evening in 
his family. I was a law-student in the office, and was 
favored with more than ordinary kindness by him, on 
account of a friendship that had existed between him 
and my deceased father. When young men, they had 
started out in life together, in equal circumstances ; one 
had died early, just as fortune began to smile ; the other 
lived to continue in well-earned prosperity. Mr. Argyll 
had never ceased to take. an interest in the orphan son 
of his friend. He had aided my mother in giving me 
a collegiate education, and had taken me into his office 
to complete my law studies. Although I did not board 
at his house, I was almost like a member of the family. 
There was always a place for me at his table, with lib- 
erty to come and go when I pleased. This being Sat- 
urday, I was expected to go home with him, and stay 
over Sunday if I liked. 

"We quickened our steps as a few large drops were 
sprinkled over us out of the darkening clouds. 

" It will be a rainy night," said Mr. Argyll. 

" It may clear away yet," I said, looking toward a 
rift in the west, through which the declining sun was 
pouring a silver stream. He shook his head doubtfully, 
and we hurried up the steps into the house, to escape 
the threatened drenching. 

Entering the pai'lors, we found no one but James, a 
nephew of Mr. Argyll, a young man of about my own 
age, lounging upon a sofa. 



19 THE DEAD LETTER. 

' Where are the girls ?" 

"They haven't descended from the heavenly regions 
yet, uncle." 

"Dressing themselves to death, I expect it's Satur- 
day evening, 1 remember," smiled the indulgent father, 

_C on into the library. 

I >at down by the west window, ami looked out at 

the coming storm. I did not like James Argyll much, 

nor lie me; s> that, as much as we were thrown 

tar, our intercourse continue, 1 constrained. On 

this occasion, ho\\ever, he seemed in excellent spirits, 

tint: in talking on all kinds of indifferent subjects 

of my lrief replies. I was wondering when 

r \\ould make her appearance. 

ie came. I heard Jier silk dress rustle down 
ujion her when she- entered 

the room. She was dressed with unusual care, ami her 
face wore a brilliant, expectant smile. The smi ; - 
for neither of us. Perhaps James thought of it ; I am 
sure I did, with secret suffering with a sharp pantr, 
which I was ashamed of, and fought inwardly to 
conquer. 

She spoke plea-anllv to both of us. but \\ith a pie- 
oceiipied ;iir not Haltering t<> our vanity. Too r, 
to sit. she paced up and down tin- length of the parlors, 
ing to radiate light as'she walked, like M.nie superb 
-so lustrous was her countenance and so line her 
costume. Little smiles would sparkle about her lips, 
little trills of song break forth, as if she were uncon- 
scious of observer^. She had a right to be triad ; s),e 
appeared to exult in her own beauty and h:i|>p 

Presently she came to the windou. and as she stood 
by my side, a burst of glory streamed through the fastr 
rlo-ing clonds. enveloping her in a golden atmosphere, 
tinting her black hair with purple, tlu-hing her clear 
cheeks and the pearls about her throat. The fragrance 



VEXATION. 13 

of the rose she wore on her breast mingled with the 
light ; for a moment I was thrilled and overpowered ; 
but the dark-blue eyes were not looking on me they 
were regarding the weather. 

" How provoking that it should rain to-night," she 
said, and as the slight cloud of vexation swept over 
her face, the blackness of night closed over the gleam 
of sunset, so suddenly that we could hardly discern 
each other. 

" The rain will not keep Moreland away," I answered. 

" Of course not but I don't want him to get wet 
walking up from the depot ; and Billy has put up the 
carriage in view of the storm." 

At that moment a wild gust of wind smote the house 
so that it shook, and the rain came down with a roar 
that was deafening. Eleanor rung for lights. 

" Tell cook to be sure and have chocolate for supper 
and cream for the peaches," she said to the servant 
who came in to light the gas. 

The girl smiled ; she knew, in common with her mis- 
tress, who it was preferred chocolate and liked cream 
with peaches ; the love of a woman, however sublime 
in some of its qualities, never fails in the tender domes- 
tic instincts which delight in promoting the comfort 
and personal tastes of its object. 

" We need not have troubled ourselves to wear our 
new dresses," pouted Mary, the younger sister, who had 
followed Eleanor down stairs " there will be nobody 
here to-night." 

Both James and myself objected to being dubbed 
nobody. The willful young beauty said all the gay 
things she pleased, telling us she certainly should 
not have worn her blue silks, nor puffed her hair for 
us 

" Nor for Henry Moreland either he never looks at 
me after the first miaute. Engaged people are So stupid ! 



14 THI DKAD LETTER. 

I wish he and Eleanor would make an end of it. If 
I'm ever going to be bridemaid, I want to be " 

"And a clear field afterward. Miss Molly," j 
her cousin. "X)omc! play that new polka for me." 

" You couldn't hear it it' I did. Tin- rain is playing 
a polka this evening, and tin- wind is dancing t<> it." 

ll<- laughed loudly more loudly than the idle fancy 
warranted. "Let us see if we can not make more 
noise than the storm," he said, going to the piano and 
thumping out the most thunderous piece that he could 
recall. I was not a musician, but it seemed to mo 
there were more discords than the law of harmony 
allowed: and Mary put her hands over her ears, and 
ran away to the end of the room. 

For the next half-hour the rain came down in wide 
sheets, flapping against the windows, as the wind blew 
it hither and thither. .lames continued at the piano, 
and Kleanor moved restlessly about, stealing glances, 
now and then, at her tiny watch. 

All at once there occurred one of those pauses which 
precede the fresh outbreaking of a storm ; a^ it' startled 
by the sudden lull, .Fames Argyll paused in his playing; 
just then the shrill whistle of the locomotive j 
the silence with more than usual power, as the evening 
train swept around the eiir\ c of the hill not a quarter 
of a mile away, and rushed on into the depot in the 
lou, r part of the village. 

Then- is something unearthly in the scream of the 
"steam-eagle," especially when heard at night. Ho 
like a sentient thin^, with a will of his own, un- 
bending and irresistible; and his cry ia threatening 
and defiant. This night it rose upon the storm pro- 
longed and doleful. 

I know not how it sounded to the others, but to me, 
whose imagination was already wrought upon by the 
tempest and by the presence of the woman I hopelessly 



A HOPELESS LOVE. 15 

loved, it came with an effect perfectly overwhelming ; 
it filled the air, even the perfumed, lighted air of the 
parlor, full of a dismal wail. It threatened I know 
not what. It warned against some strange, unseen 
disaster. Then it sunk into a hopeless cry, so full of 
mortal anguish, that I involuntarily put my fingers to 
my ears. Perhaps James felt something of the same 
thing, for he started from the piano-stool, walked twice 
or thrice across the floor, then flung himself again upon 
the sofa, and for a long time sat with his eyes shaded, 
neither speaking nor stirring. 

Eleanor, with maiden artifice, took up a book, and 
composed herself to pretend to read ; she would not 
have her lover to know that she had been so restless 
while awaiting his coming. Only Mary fluttered about 
like a humming-bird, diving into the sweets of things, 
the music, the flowers, whatever had honey in it ; and 
teasing me in the intervals. 

I have said that I loved Eleanor. I did, secretly, in 
silence and regret, against my judgment and will, and 
because I could not help it. I Avas quite certain that 
James loved her also, and I felt sorry for him ; sympa- 
thy was taught me by my own sufferings, though I had 
never felt attracted toward his character. He seemed 
to me to be rather sullen in temper, as well as selfish; 
and then again I reproached myself for uncharitable- 
ness ; it might have been his circumstances which 
rendered him morose he was dependent upon his 
uncle and his uuhappiness which made him appear 
unamiable. 

I loved, without a particle of hope. Eleanor was 
engaged to a young gentleman in every way worthy of 
her : of fine demean^, high social position, and un- 
blemished moral character. As much as her many 
admirers may have envied Henry Moreland, they could 
not dislike him. To see the young couple together 



16 THE DEAD LETTER. 

was to feel that theirs would be one of those " matches 
made in heaven " in age, character, worldly circum- 
stances, beauty and cultivation, there was a rare corre- 
spondence. 

Mr. Moreland was engaged with his father in a bank- 
ing business in the city of Xew York. They owned 
a summer villa in Blankville, and it had been during 
his week of summer idleness here that he had made 
the :ic|uaintance of Klcanor Argyll. 

At this season of the year his business kept him in 
the city; but he was in the habit of coming out every 
Saturday afternoon and spending Sabbath at the house 
.f Mr. Argyll, the marriage which was to terminate a 
betrothal of nearly two years bein^i now not very far 
away. On her nineteenth birthday, which came in 
iber, Klcanor was to be married. 

Another half-hour passed away and the e\| 
guest did not arrhe. He usually reached the h<>u-e in 
fifteen minutes after the arrival of the train ; I could 
see that his betrothed was playing nervously with her 
watch-chain, though she kept her eyes fixed upon her 
book. 

*'Come, let us have tea; I am hungry." said .Mr. 
Argyll, coming out of the library. u I had a long ride 
dinner. No use waiting, Klcanor he won't be 
here to-night" he pinched her check to c\piv-s his 
sympathy f>r her disappointment " a little slmwer 
didn't use to keep l>eaux away when I was a boy." 

"A little rain, papa! I never heard such a torrent 
before; besides, it wtis not the storm, of course, f..r he 
would have already taken the cars bet'.. re it commenced." 

"To be sure! to be sure! defend your sweetheart, 
Klla that's right! ifut it n%y have been raining 
down there half the day the storm comes from that 
direction. James, are you asleep ?" 

I'll toon tee," cried Mary, pulling away the hand 



NO LETTEK. 17 

from her cousin's face " why, James, what is the 
matter ?" 

Her question caused us all to look at him ; his face 
was of an ashy paleness ; his eyes burning like coals of 
fire. 

" Nothing is the matter ! I've been half asleep," 
he answered, laughing, and springing to his feet. 
" Molly, shall I have the honor ?" she took his offered 
arm, and we went in to tea. 

The sight of the well-ordered table, at the head of 
which Eleanor presided, the silver, the lights, the odor 
of the chocolate overpowering the fainter fragrance 
the tea, was enough to banish thoughts of the tern 
raging without, saving just enough consciousness of it 
to enhance the enjoyment of the luxury within. 

Even Eleanor could not be cold to the warmth and 
comfort of the hour ; the tears, which at first she could 
hardly keep out of her proud blue eyes, went back to 
their sources ; she made an effort to be gay, and suc- 
ceeded in being very charming. I think she still hoped 
he had been delayed at the village; and that there 
would be a note for her at the post-office, explaining 
his absence. 

For once, the usually kind, considerate girl was self- 
ish. Severe as was the storm, she insisted upon send- 
ing a servant to the office ; she could not be kept in 
suspense until Monday. 

She would hardly believe his statement, upon his re- 
turn, that the mail had been changed, and there was 
really no message whatever. 

We went back to the parlor and passed a merry 
evening. 

A touch of chagrin, a fear that we should suspect 
how deeply she was disappointed, caused Eleanor to 
appear in unusually high spirits. She sung whatever I 
asked of her ; she played some delicious music ; she 



18 Till: DEAD LETTER. 

parried the wit of others with keener and brighter rep- 
artee ; the roses bloomed on her cheeks, the stare rose 
in her eyes. It was not an altogether happy excite- 
ment ; I knew that pride and lorn-lines* were at the bot- 
tom of it ; but it made her brilliantly beautiful. I 
wondered what Moreland would feel to see her so 
lovely I almost regretted that he \vas not there. 
James, too, was in an exultant mood. 
It was late when we retired. I was in a state of 
mental activity which kept me awake for hours after. 
I never heard it rain as it did that night the water 
to come down in solid ina^-i > ami, occasion- 
ly, the wind shook the strong mansion as if it wen- :i 
child. I could not sleep. There was something awful 
in 'he storm. If I had had a touch of superstition 
vbout me, I should have said that spirits were abroad. 
A healthy man, of a somewhat vivid imagination, 
but without nervousness, unknowing bodily fear, I was 
still affected strangely. I shuddered in my soft bed ; 
the wild shriek of the locomotive lingered in my ears; 
something beside* rain seemed bmtuxj <it the windows. 
Ah, my God! I kne\v :ifti-rward what it was. It was 
a human s,.ul, disembodied, lin^erinir about the place on 
earth must dear to it. The rest of the household slept 
well, so far as I could judge, by its silence and deep 
ose. 

Toward morning I fell asleep ; when I awoke the 
rain was over ; the sun shone brightly ; the ground was 
covered with gay autumn leaves shaken down by the 
wind and rain ; the day promised well. I shook off 
the impressions of the darkness, dressed myself quickly, 
for the breakfast-bell rung, and descend inir, joined the 
family of my host at the table. In (lie midst of our 
cheerful repast, the door-bell rung. Eleanor started ; 
the thought that her lover might have stayed at tho 
hotel adjoining the depot on account of tin- rain, mu-t 



THE AXXOUNCEMEJO 1 . 19 

have crossed her mind, for a rapid blush rose to her 
cheeks, and she involuntarily put up a hand to the dark 
braids of her hair as if to give them a more graceful 
touch. The servant came in, saying that a man at the 
door wished to speak with Mr. Argyll and Mr. Redfield. 

" He says it's important, and can't wait, sir." 

We arose and went out into the hall, closing the door 
of the breakfast-room behind us. 

" I'm very sorry I've got bad news I hope you 
won't" stammered the messenger, a servant from the 
hotel. 

" What is it ?" demanded Mr. Argyll. 

" The young gentleman that comes here Morelan 
his name, I believe was found dead on the road t 
morning." 

"Dead!" 

"They want you to come down to the inqu 
They've got him in a room of our house. They think 
it's a fit there's no marks of any thing." 

The father and I looked at each other ; the lips of 
both were quivering ; we both thought of Eleanor. 

" What shall I do ?" 

" I don't know, Mr. Argyll. I haven't had time to 
think." 

" I can not I can not " 

" Nor I not just yet. ' Sarah, tell the young ladies 
we have gone out a short time on business and don't 
you breathe what you have heard. Don't let any one 
in until we return don't allow any one to see Miss 
Eleanor. Be prudent." 

Her frightened face did not promise much for her 
discretion. 

Hastening to the hotel, already surrounded by many 
people, we found the distressing message too true. 
Upon a lounge, in a private sitting-room, lay the body 
of Henry Moreland ! The coroner and a couple of 




20 THE DEAD LETTER. 

physicians hal already arrived. It was their opinion 
that he had diet! from natural causes, as there was not 
the least evidence of violence to IK- seen. The face was 
as pleasant as in sluinln-i- ; we could hardly believe him 
tload until wu touched the icy forehead, about which 
tin- thick ringlets of brown hair clung, saturated with 
rain. 

What's this?" exclaimed one, as we began to re- 
lieve the corpse of its wet garments, for the purpose of 
a further examination. It was a stab in the hack. Not 
a drop of blood only a small triangular hole in the 
k, through the other clothing, intu the body. The 
tigstioo soon revealed the nature of the dcath- 
; it had bi-en <_ r iven by a line, sharp dirk or M'I- 
,to. So firm and forcible had been the blow that it 
pierced the Inn^ and struck the rib with sutlicicnt 
to break the blade of the weapon, about thrce- 
rtcrs of an inch of the point of which was found in 
the wound. Death must haxcbccn instantaneous. The 
victim had fallen forward upon his lace, bleeding in- 
wardly, which accounted for no blond having been at 
tir-t pi-rcei\cd ; and as he had fallen, so he had lain 
through all the drenching >torm of that miserable night. 
When discovered by the lii>t pa--cr-by. alter daylight, 
lie uas lv'ni'4 on the path, by the side of the street, 
which led up in the direction of Mr. Argyll's, his trav- 
eling-bag bv his side, hi- face to the ground. The bag 
WH8 not touched, neither the watch and money on his 
person, making it evident that robbery \\as not the ob- 
ject of the murderer. 

A Stab in the back, in the double darkness <>f night 
and storm ! What enemy had Henry Morclaiid. to do 
this deed upon him ? 

It is useless HOW to repeat all the var\ MIL: conjectures 
in our minds, or which continued to engross tin- 
entire comimmity for weeks then-after. It became at 




A PAINFUL DUTY. 21 

once the favorite theory of many that young Moreland 
had perished by a stroke intended for some other per- 
son. In the mean time, the news swept through the 
village like a whirlwind, destroying the calmness of 
that Sabbath morning, tossing the minds of people more 
fearfully than the material tempest had tossed the frail 
leaves. Murder ! and^such a murder in such a place ! 
not twenty rods from the busiest haunts of men, on a 
peaceful street sudden, sure, unprovoked ! People 
looked behind them as they walked, hearing the assas- 
sin's step in every rustle of the breeze. Murder ! the 
far-away, frightful idea had suddenly assumed a real 
shape it seemed to have stalked through the town, 
entering each dwelling, standing by every hearth-stone. 

While the inquest was proceeding, Mr. Argyll and 
myself were thinking more of Eleanor than of her mur- 
dered lover. 

" This is wretched business, Richard," said the father. 
" I am so unnerved I can do nothing. Will you tele- 
graph to his parents for me ?" 

His parents here was more misery. I had not 
thought of them. I wrote out the dreadful message 
which it ought to have melted the wires with pity to 
carry. 

" And now you must go to Eleanor. She must not 
hear it from strangers ; and I can not Richard ! you 
will tell her, will you not ? I will follow you home 
immediately ; as soon as I have made arrangements 
to have poor Henry brought to our house when the in- 
quest is over." 

He wrung my hand, looking at me so beseechingly, 
that, loth as I was, I had no thought of refusing. I 
felt like one walking with frozen feet as I passed out 
of the chamber of horror into the peaceful sunlight, 
along the very path he had last trodden, and over the 
spot where he had fallen and had lain so many hours 



22 THE DEAD LETTER. 

undiscovered, around which a crowd was pressing, dis- 
turbcd, excited, but not noisy. Tlie s.-mdy soil had 
already filtered the rain, FO as to be nearly dry; there 
w.i< nothing to give a clue to the murderer's footsteps 
whither he went or whence he came what impn 
they illicit have made in the hard, gravelly walk had 
been washed out by the storm. A few persons were 
'ling carefully for the weapon which had been the 
instrument of death, and which had been broken in the 
wound, thinking it might have been cast away in the 
vicinity. 



THE OLD MANSION. 23 



CHAPTER III. 

THE FIGURE BENEATH THE TREES. 

As I came near the old Argyll mansion, it seemed to 
me never to have looked so fair before. The place was 
the embodiment of calm prosperity. Stately and spa- 
cious it rose from the lawn in the midst of great old 
oaks \yhose trunks must have hardened through a cen- 
tury of growth, and whose red leaves, slowly dropping, 
now flamed in the sunshine. Although the growing 
village had stretched up to and encircled the grounds, 
it had still the air of a country place, for th6 lawn was 
roomy and the gardens were extensive. The house was 
built of stone, in a massive yet graceful style; with 
such sunshiny windows and pleasant porticoes that it 
had nothing of a somber look. 

It is strange what opposite emotions will group 
themselves in the soul at the same moment. The sight 
of those lordly trees called up the exquisite picture of 
Tennyson's " Talking Oak" : 

" Oh, muffle round thy knees with fern, 

And shadow Sumner-chace ! 
Long may thy topmost branch discern 
The roofs of Sumner-place !" 

I wondered if Henry had not repeated them, as he 
walked with Eleanor amid the golden light and flicker- 
ing shadows beneath the branches of these trees. I. re- 
called how I once, in my madness, before I knew that 
she was betrothed to another, had apostrophized the 
monarch of them all, in the passionate words of Walter. 
Now, looking at this ancient tree, I perceived with my 
eyes, though hardly with my mind, that it had some 
fresh excoriations upon the bark. If I thought any 
thing at all about it, I thought it the work of the storm, 



24 THK DEAD LETTER. 

for numerous branches had been torn from the trees 
throughout the grove, and the ground was car] 
with fresh-fallen leaxes. 

Passing up the walk, I caught a glimpse of Eleanor 
at an upper window, and heard her singing a hymn, 
softly to herself, as she moved about her chamber. I 
stopped as if struck a blow. How could I force my- 
self to drop the pall over this glorious morning ? Alas ! 
of all the homes in that village, perhaps this was the 
only one on which the shadow had not yet fallen 
this, over which it was to settle, to l.e lifted never- 
more. 

Of all the hearts as yet unstartled by the tragic 
was that most certain to be withered that young heart, 
this moment so full of love and bliss, caroling hymns 
out of the fullness of its gratitude to God for its own 
delicious happiness. 

Oh, I must I must ! I went in at an open window, 
from a portico into the library. James was tin-re, 
dressed for church, 1 1 is prayer-lunik and handkerchief 
on the table, ami lie looking over the la>t c\ ci.it: 

The sight of him gave me a slight relief; his 
uncle ami myself had forgotten him in Uie mi.lst of 
our distress. It was bad enough to have to tell any 
One such news, 1 nit any delay in meet ing Kleanor was 
eagerly welcomed. He looked at me inquiringly ray 
manner was enough to denote that something had 
wrong. 

-What is it, Richard?" 

" Horrible most horrible !" 

" For heaven'* sake, what is the matter ?" 
i eland has been murdered." 

"Mordand! What? Where? Whom do they 
suspect ?" 

- And her father wishes me to tell Kleanor. You are 
her cousin, James ; will you not be the fittest |..-t>on ?" 



ELEANOB. 25 

the hope crossing me that he would undertake the de- 
livery of the message. 

" IT he exclaimed, leaning against the case of books 
beside him. " I ! oh, no, not I. I'd be the last person ! 
I'd look well telling her about it, wouldn't I ?" and he 
half laughed, though trembling from head to foot. 

If I thought his manner strange, I did not wonder 
at it the dreadful nature of the shock had unnerved 
all of us. 

" Where is Mary ?" I asked ; " we had better tell her 
first, and have her present. Indeed, I wish " 

I had turned toward the door, which opened into the 
hall, to search for the younger sister, as I spoke ; the 
words died on my lips. Eleanor was standing there. 
She had been coming in to get a book, and had evi- 
dently heard what had passed. She was as white as 
the morning dress she wore. 

" Where is he ?" Her voice sounded almost natural. 

" At the Eagle Hotel," I answered, without reflec- 
tion, glad that she showed such self-command, and, 
since she did, glad also that the terrible communication 
was over. 

She turned and ran through the hall, down the avenue 
toward the gate. In her thin slippers, her hair uncov- 
ered, fleet as a vision of the wind, she fled. I sprung 
after her. It would not do to allow her to shock her- 
self with that sudden, awful sight. As she rushed out 
upon the street I caught her by the arm. 

" Let me go ! I must go to him ! Don't you see, he 
will need me ?" 

She made an effort to break away, looking down the 
street with strained eyes. Poor child ! as if, he being 
dead, she could do him any good ! Her stunned heart 
had as yet gone no further than that if Henry was hurt, 
was murdered, he would need her by his side. She 
must eo to him and comfort him in his calamity. It 
2 



26 THB DEAD LETTER. 

was yet to teach her that this world and the things of 
this world even she, herself, were no more to him. 

" Come back, Eleanor ; they will bring him to you 
before long." 

I had to lift her in my arms and carry her back to 
the house. 

In the hall we met Mary, who had heard the story 
from James, and who burst into tears and sobs as she 
Baw her sister. 

" They are keeping me away from him," said Elea- 
nor, pitifully, looking at her. I felt her form relax in 
my arms, saw that she had fainted ; James :ml 1 car- 
ried her to a sofa, while Mary ran distractedly for the 
housekeeper. 

There was noisy wailing now in the mansion ; the 
servants all admired and liked the young gentleman to 
whom their mistress was to be manicd ; atul, as usual, 
they gave full scope to their powers of expressing ter- 
ror and sympathy. In the midst of cries and tears, the 
insensible girl was conveyed to her chamber. 

James and myself paced the long halls and porticoes, 
waiting to hear tidings of her recovery. After a time 
the housekeeper came down, informing us that Miss 
Argyll had come to her senses; Ka-t \\ix-, cnouu r li to 
open her eyes and look about; but she wouldn't speak, 
and she looked dreadful. 

Just then .Mr. Argyll came in. After liriiiLT inform.'. 1 
of what had occurred, he went up to his daughter's 
room. With uttermost tenderness he gave her the do- 
tails of the murder, as they were known ; his eyes over- 
running with tears to see that not a drop of moi 
softened her fixed, unnatural look. 

Friends came in and went out with no notice from her. 

"I wish they would all leave me but you. .Mary," 
he said, after a time. Father, you will let me know 



WHO WAS SHE? 27 

" Yes yes." He kissed her, and she was left with 
her sister for a watcher. 

Hours passed. Some of us went into the dining- 
room and drank of the strong tea which the house- 
keeper had prepared, for we felt weak and unnerved. 
The parents were expected in the evening train, there 
being but one train running on Sunday. The shadow 
deepened over the house from hour to hour. 

It was late in the afternoon before the body could be 
removed from the hotel where the coroner's inquest was 
held. I asked James to go with me and attend upon 
its conveyance to Mr. Argyll's. He declined, upon the 
plea of being too much unstrung to go out. 

As the sad procession reached the garden in front of 
the mansion with its burden, I observed, in the midst 
of several who had gathered about, a woman, whose 
face, even in that time of preoccupation, arrested my 
attention. It was that of a girl, young and handsome, 
though now thin and deadly pale, with a wild look in 
her black eyes, which were fixed upon the shrouded 
burden with more than awe and curiosity. 

. I know not yet why I remarked her so particularly; 
why her strange face made such an impression on me. 
Once she started toward us, and then shrunk back again. 
By her dress and general appearance she might have 
been a shop-girl. I had never seen her before. 

" That girl," said a gentleman by my side, " acts 
queerly. And, come to think, she was on the train from 
New York yesterday afternoon. Not the one poor 
Moreland came in ; the one before. I was on board 
myself, and noticed her particularly, as she sat facing 
me. She seemed to have some trouble on her mind." 

I seldom forget faces ; and I never forgot hers. 

" I will trace her out," was my mental resolve. 

We passed on into the house, and deposited our 
charge in the back parlor. I thought of Eleanor, as 



28 THE DEAD LETTER. 

she had walked this room just twenty-four hours ago, 
a brilliant vision of love and triumphant beauty. A\ ! 
twenty-four hours ago this clay before me \\a> 
splendent with life, as eager, a> plowing with the hope 
of the soul within it ! Now, all the hours of time would 
never restore the tenant to his tenement. Who had 
dared to take upon himself the responsibility of unlaw- 
fully and with violence, ejecting this human soul from 
its house ? 

I shuddered as I asked myself the question. Some- 
where must be lurking a guilty creature, with a heart 
on.iire from the flames of hell, with- which it had put 
itself in contact. 

Then my heart stood still within me all but the 
family had been b.-mished from the apartment her 
father was leading in Kleanor. With a slow step, cling- 
ing to his arm, sin- entered ; but as her eyes ti\rd them- 
I upon the rigid outlines lying there beneath the 
funeral pall, she sprung forward, casting hei>elf upon 
her lover's corpse. Before, she had been silent ; now 
began a murmur of woe so heart-rending that w- who 
listeiu-d wished onrsch cs deaf before our ears h:id heard 
and sentences which could nc\er be f.. rotten. 
It would IHJ useless for me, a man, with a man's lan- 
guage and thoughts, to attempt to repeat what this 
broken-hearted woman said to her dead 

It was not her words so much as it was her pathetic 
tones. 

She talked to him as if he were alive and could hear 
her. She was resolved to make him hear and feel her 
love through the dark death which was between them. 

"Ah, Henry," she said, in a low, caressing tone, 
pressing back the curls from his forehead with her hand, 
" your hair is wet still. To think that you should lie, 
out there all night all night on the ground, in the 
rain, and I not knov of it ! I, to be sleeping in my 



CEAZED. 29 

warm bed actually sleeping, and you lying out in the 
storm, dead. That is the strangest thing ! that makes 
me wonder to think I could! Tell me that you for- 
give me for that, darling for sleeping, you know, when 
you were out there. I was thinking of you when I 
took the rose out of my dress at night. I dreamed of 
you all night, but if I had known where you were, I 
would have gone out barefooted, I would have stayed 
by you and kept the rain from your face, from your 
dear, dear hair that I like so much and hardly ever dare 
to touch. It was cruel of me to sleep so. Would you 
guess, I was vexed at you last evening because you 
didn't come ? It was that made me so gay not be- 
cause I was happy. Vexed at you for not coming, 
when you could not come because you were dead !" 
and she laughed. 

As that soft, dreadful laughter thrilled through the 
room, with a groan Mr. Argyll arose and went out ; 
he could bear no more. Disturbed with a fear that her 
reason was shaken, I spoke with Mary, and we two 
tried to lift her up, and persuade her out of the room. 

" Oh, don't try to get me away from him again," she 
pleaded, with a quivering smile, which made us sick. 
" Don't be troubled, Henry. I'm not going I'm not! 
They are going to put my hand in yours and bury me 
with you. It's so curious I should have been playing 
the piano and wearing my new dress, and never 
guessing it ! that you were so near rne dead 
murdered !" 

The kisses ; the light, gentle touches of his hands 
and forehead, as if she might hurt him Avith the caresses 
which she could not withhold ; the intent look which 
continually watched him as if expecting an answer; 
the miserable"smile upon her white face these were 
things which haunted those who saw them through 
many a future slumber. 



30 THB DEAD LETTEB. 

" You will not say you forgive me for singing last 
night. You don't say a word to me because you are 
dead that's it because you are dead murdered !" 

The echo of her own last word recalled her wander- 
ing reason. 

" My God ! murdered !" she exclaimed, suddenly 
rising to her full hight, with an awful air ; " who do 
you suppose did it ?" 

Her cousin was standing near; her eyes fell upon 
him as she asked the question. The look, the manner, 
were too much for his already overwrought sensibility ; 
he shrunk away, caught my arm,' and sunk down, 
insensible. I did not wonder. We all of us felt as if 
we could endure no more. 

Coins; to the family phy>ician, who waited in another 
apartment, I begged of him to use some influence to 
withdraw 1 from the room, and quiet her 

feelings and memory, before her brain yielded to the 
strain upon it. After giving us some directions what 
to do with James, he went and talked with her, witli 
so much wisdom and tact, that the danger to her r. 
seemed pacing ; persuading her also into taking the 
powder which he himself administered ; but no argu- 
ment could induce her to leave the mute, unans\\ering 
clay. 

The arrival of the relatives was the last scene in tlio 
tragedy of that day. Unable to lx?ar more of it, I 
\\<nt out in the darkness and walked upon tlie lawn. 
My head was hot ; the cool air felt grateful to me ; I 
leaned long upon the trunk of an oak, whose dark 
shadow shut out the starlight from about me ; thought 
was busy with recent events. Who was the muni. 
The question revolved in my brain, coming uppermost 
other moment, as certainly as the turning d a 
wheel brings a certain point again and again to the 
top. My training, as a student of the law, helped my 



WHO WAS THE MURDERER ? 31 

mind to fix upon every slightest circumstance which 
might hold a suspicion. 

" Could that woman ?" but no, the hand of a woman 
could scarcely have given that sure and powerful blow. 
It looked like the work of a practiced hand or, if not, 
at least it had been deliberately given, with malice 
aforethought. The assassin had premeditated the deed ; 
had watched his victim and awaited the hour. Thus 
far, there was absolutely no clue whatever to the guilty 
party ; bold as was the act, committed in the early 
evening, in the haunts of a busy community, it had 
been most fatally successful ; and the doer had vanished 
as completely as if the earth had opened and swallow- 
ed him up. No one, as yet, could form any plausible 
conjecture, even as to the motive. 

In the name of Eleanor Argyll in the name of her 
whom I loved, whose happiness I had that day seen in 
ruins, I vowed to use every endeavor to discover and 
bring to punishment the murderer. I know not why 
this purpose took such firm hold of me. The convic- 
tion of the guilty would not restore the life which had 
been taken ; the bloom to a heart prematurely withered ; 
it would afford no consolation to the bereaved. Yet, 
if to discover, had been to call back Henry Moreland 
to the world from which he had been so ruthlessly 
dismissed, I could hardly have been more determined 
in the pursuit. In action only could I feel relief from 
the oppression which weighed upon me. It could not 
give life to the dead but the voice of Justice called 
aloud, never to permit this deed to sink into oblivion, 
until she had executed the divine vengeance of the law 
upon the doer. 

As I stood there in silence and darkness, pondering 
the matter, I heard a light rustle of the dry leaves 
upon the ground, and felt, rather than saw, a figure 
pass me. I might have thought it one of the servants 



82 THE DEAD LETTER. 

were it not for the evident caution of its movements. 
Presently, where the shadows of the trees were less 
thick, I detected a person stealing to\v;ml the house. 
As she crossed an open space, the starlight revealed 
the form and garments of a female ; the next moment 
she passed into the obscurity of shadows again, win TO 
she remained some time, unsuspicious of my proximity, 
like myself leaning against a tree, and watching the 
mansion. Apparently satisfied that no one was about 
the hour now verging toward midnight she 
approached with hovering steps, now pausing, now 
drawing baek, the west side of the mansion, 1'nnn one 
of the windows of which the solemn light of the death- 
candles shone. Under this window she crouched down. 
I could not tell if her attitude were a kneeling one. 
It must have been more than an hour that she remained 
motionless in this place; I, equally quiet, watching tin- 
dark spot where she was. For the instant that she 
had sto.nl between me and the \\5ndow, her form was 
outlined against the light, when I saw that this must 
be the young woman uhose strange conduct at the 
, gate had attracted my attention. Of course I did not 
see her face; but the tall, slender figure, the dark bon- 
.nd nervous movement, were the same. I per- 
d myself with vain conjectures. 

I could not help connecting her with the murder, or 
wilh the victim, in some manner, ho\\v\ 

At last she arose, lingered, went away, passing near 
me with that soft, rustling step again. I was impelled 
to stretch out my hand and sei/e her ; her conduct was 
suspicion*; ^he ought to be .-.ircMcd and examined, if 
only to clear herself of these circumstances. The idea 
that, by following her, I might trace her to some haunt, 
where proofs were secreted, or accomplices hidden, 
withheld my grasp. 

Cautiously timing my step with hers, that the 



THE TENEMENT-HOUSE. 83 

murmur of the leaves might not betray me, I followed. 
As she passed out the gate, I stood behind a tree, lest 
she should look back and discern me ; then I passed 
through, following along in the shadow of the fence. 

She hurried on in the direction of the spot at which 
the murder had been committed ; but when nearly 
there, perceiving that some persons, though long past 
midnight, still hovered about the fatal place, she turned, 
and passed me. As soon as I dared, without alarming 
her, I also turned, pursuing her through the long, quiet 
street, until it brought her to a more crowded and 
poorer part of the village, where she went down a side 
street, and disappeared in a tenement-house, the 
entrance-hall to which was open. I ought to have 
gone at once for officers, and searched the place ; but I 
unwisely concluded to wait for daylight. 

As I came up the walk on my return, I met James 
Argyll in the avenue, near the front portico. 

" Oh, is it you ?" he exclaimed, after I had spoken 
to him. " I thought it was was " 

" You are not superstitious, James ?" for his hollow 
voice betrayed that he was frightened. 

" You did give me a confounded uneasy sensation as 
you came up," he answered with a laugh. How can 
people laugh under such circumstances ? " Where 
have you been at this hour, Richard ?" 

" Walking in the cool air. The house smothered 
me." 

" So it did me. I could not rest. I have just come 
out to get a breath of air." 

" It is almost morning," I said, and passed on into 
my chamber. 

I knew who watched, without food, M'ithout rest, in 
the chamber of death, by whose door my footsteps led ; 
but ache as my heart might, I had no words of comfort 
for sorrow like hers so I passed on. 



34 T1IE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER IV. 

MORELAXD VILLA. 

SEVERAL minor circumstances prevented my going in 
search of the woman who had excited my suspicions on 
the previous day, until about nine o'clock of the morn- 
ing, when I engaged an officer, and we two went quietly, 
without communicating our plans to any one else, to 
the tenement-house before spoken of. - 

Although Blankville was not a large village, there 
was in it, as in nearly every town blessed with a rail- 
road depot, a shabby (juarti-r where the rougher portion 
of its working people lived. The house stood in this 
quarter it was a three-story frame building, occupied 
by half a dozen families, mostly those of Irish laborers, 
who found work in the vicinity of the depot. I had 
seen the strange girl ascend to the second floor, in the 
dim light of the previous night, so we went up and 
knocked at the fii>t ilo.n- we came upon. It wasopem-d 
by a decent-appearing middle-a.^ed woman, who held 
the knob in her hand while she waited for us to make 
known our errand; we both stepped into her apart- 
ment, before we spoke. A rapid glance revealed an 
innocent-looking room with the ordinary furniture of 
such a place a cooking-stove, bed, table, etc. ; but no 
other inmate. There was a cupboard, the door of which 
stood open, showing its humble array of dishes and 
eatables there were no pantries, nor cither pla , 
concealment, I was certain that I had seen the girl 
enter this room at the head of the stairs, so I vcutun ! : 

" Is your daughter at home, ma'.. 

" Is it my niece you mean ?" 

I detected an Irish accent, though the woman spoke 



MKS. SULLIVAN. 35 

with but little " brogue," and was evidently an old resi- 
dent of our country in a manner Americanized. 

" Oh, she is your niece ? I suppose so a tall girl 
with dark eyes and hair." 

" That's Leesy, herself. Was you wanting any work 
done ?" 

" Yes," answered the officer, quickly, taking the mat- 
ter out of my hands. " I wanted to get a set of shirts 
made up six, with fine, stitched bosoms." He had no- 
ticed a cheap sewing-machine standing near the win- 
dow, and a bundle of coarse muslin in a basket near by. 

" It's sorry I am to disappoint you ; but Leesy's not 
with me now, and I hardly venture on the fine work. 
I make the shirts for the hands about the railroad that 
hasn't wives of their own to do it but for the fine bus- 
sums" doubtfully " though, to be sure, the machine 
does the stitches up beautiful if it wasn't for the but- 
ton-holes !" 

" Where is Leesy ? Doesn't she stop with you ?" 

" It's her I have here always when she's out of a 
place. She's an orphan, poor girl, and it's not in the 
blood of a Sullivan to turn off their own. I've brought 
her up from a little thing of five years old given her 
the education, too. She can read and write like the 
ladies of the land." 

" You didn't say where she was, Mrs. Sullivan." 

" She's making the fine things in a fancy-store in New 
York caps and collars and sleeves and the beautiful 
tucked waists she's such taste, and the work is not so 
hard as plain-sewing four dollars a week she gets, and 
boarded for two and a half, in a nice, genteel place. 
She expects to be illivated to the forewoman's place, at 
seven dollars the week, before many months. She was 
here to stay over the Sunday with me she often does 
that ; and she's gone back by the six o'clock train this 
mornin' and she'll be surely late at that by an hour- 



86 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I tried to coax her to stay the day, she seemed so 
poorly. She's not been herself this lone: time she 
seems goin' in a decline like it's the stooping over the 
needle, I think. She's eo nervine-like, the news of the 
murder yesterday almost killed her. 'Twas an awful 
deed that, wasn't it, gintlemen ? I couldn't sleep a, 
wink last night for thinkin' of that poor young man and 
the sweet lady he was to have married. Such a fine, 
generous, polite young gintleman 1" 

" Did you know him ?" 

" Know him ! as well as my own son if I had one ! 
not that ever I spoke to him, but he's passed here often 
on his way to his father's house, and t<> Mr. Argyll's; 
and Lecsy sewed in their family tlu-M- two summers 
when they've been here, and was alu paid. 

When she'd iro away he'd say, laughing in \\\* beauti- 
ful way, 'And how much have y.-u earned a day, .Mi-s 
Sullivan, sitting there all these long, hot hours ?' and 
she'd answer, 'Fifty rents a day, and thanks to your 
mother for the good pay;' and he'd put his hand in his 
pocket and pull out a ten-dollar gold-piece and say, 
1 Women aren't half paid for their work! it's a shame! 
it' \oii hain't earned a dollar a da\ . .Mi> Sullivan, you 
hain't earned a cent. So don't be afraid to take it it's 
your due.' And that's what made Leesy think so 
much of him he was so thoughtful of the poor God 
bless him ! How could anybody have the heart to do 
it!" 

I looked at the officer and found his eyes reading my 
One thought had evidently flashed over both of 
i'lit it wa a suspicion which wmn j,-d the immaeu- 
mem*ry of Henry Moreland, and I, for my part, 
b:inihed it as soon as it entered my n .' 1 
him to pay generously the labors of 
girl; it was not like him to take any advantage of her 
ignorance or gratitude, which might result in her takiui: 



THE SEWING-GIKL. 87 

such desperate revenge for her wrongs. The thought 
was an insult to him and to the noble woman who was 
to have been his wife. I blushed at the intrusive, un- 
welcome fancy ; but the officer, not knowing the de- 
ceased as I knew him, and, perhaps, having no such 
exalted idea of manhood as mine, seemed to feel as if 
here might be a thread to follow. 

" Leesy thought much of him, you think, Mrs. Sulli- 
van," taking a chair unbidden, and putting on a friendly, 
gossiping air. " Everybody speaks well of him. So 
she sewed in the family ?" 

" Six weeks every summer. They was always satis- 
fied with her sewing she's the quickest and neatest 
hand with the needle ! She'd make them shirts of yours 
beautiful, if she was to home, sir." 

" When did she go to New York to live ?" 

" Last winter, early. It's nearly a year now. There 
was something come across her she appeared homesick 
like, and strange. When she said she meant to go to 
the city and get work, I was minded to let her go, for 
I thought the change mebbe would do her good. But 
she's quite ailing and coughs dreadful o' nights. I'm 
afraid she catched cold in that rain-storm night afore 
last ; she came up all the way from the depot in it. 
She was wet to the skin when she got here and as white 
as a sheet. She was so weak-like that when the neigh r 
bors came in with the news yesterday, she gave a 
scream and dropped right down. I didn't wonder she 
was took aback. I ain't got done trembling yet my- 
self." 

I remembered the gentleman who had first spoken to 
me about the girl said that she had come in on the morn- 
ing train Saturday ; I could not reconcile this with her 
coming up from the depot at dark ; yet I wished to put 
my question in such a way as not to arouse suspicion 
of my motive. 



38 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" If she came in the six o'clock train she must have 
been on the same train with Mr. Moreland." 

" I believe she was in the seven o'clock cars yes, 
she was. *Twas hall-past seven when she got in the 
rain was pouring down awful. She didn't see him, for 
I asked her yesterday." 

" In whose shop in New York is she employed ?" 
inquired the officer. 

" She's at No 3 Broadway,'' naming a store some- 
where between Wall street and Canal. 

" Are you wanting her for any thing ?" she asked, 
suddenly, looking up sharply as if it just occurred to 
her that our inquiries were rather pointed. 

" Oh, no," replied my companion, rising ; " I was a 
bit tired, and thought I'd rest my feet before starting 
out again. I'll thank you for a glass of water, Mrs. 
Sullivan. So yon won't undertake the shirts ?" 

44 If I thought I could do the button-holes " 

" Perhaps your niece could do them on her next visit, 
if you wanted the job," I suggested. 

" Why, so she could ! and would be glad to do some- 
thing for her old aunt. It's bright you are to put me 
in iniiul of it. Shall I come lor (he work, sir?" 

" I'll send it round when I get it ready. I suppose 
your niece intends to visit you next Saturday ?" 

" Well, ra'ly, I can't say. It's too expensive her 
coming every week ; but, she'll sure be here afore the 
whole six is complate. Good-morn'm', trintlemen and 
they's heard nothin' of the murderer, I'll warrant ?" 

We responded that nothing had been learnetl. and 
descending to the street, it was arranged, as we walked 
along, that the officer should go to New York and j>ut 
some detective there on the track of Leesy Sullivan. I 
informed my companion of the discrepancy between her 
actual arrival in town and her appearance at her aunt's. 
Either the woman had purposely deceived us, or her 



SUSPICIONS. 39 

niece had not gone home for a good many hours after 
landing at Blankville. I went with him to the depot, 
where we made a few inquiries which convinced us that 
she had arrived on Saturday morning, and sat an hour 
or two in the ladies' room, and then gone away up town. 

There was sufficient to justify our looking further. 
I took from my own pocket means to defray the ex- 
penses of the officer as well as to interest the New York 
detective, adding that liberal rewards were about to be 
offered, and waited until I saw him depart on his errand. 

Then, turning to go to the office, my heart so sicken- 
ed at the idea of business and the ordinary routine of 
living in the midst of such misery, that my footsteps 
shrunk aAvay from their familiar paths ! I could do 
nothing, just then, for the aid or comfort of the afflicted. 
Tho body was to be taken that afternoon to the city 
for interment, the next day, in the family inclosm-e at 
Greenwood ; until the hour for its removal, there was 
nothing more that friendship could perform in the ser- 
vice of the mourners. My usual prescription for mental 
ailments was a long and vigorous walk ; to-day I felt 
as if I could breathe only in the wide sunshine, so 
cramped and chilled were my spirits. 

The summer residence of the Morelands lay about a 
mile beyond the Argyll mansion, out of the village 
proper, on a hillside, which sloped down to the river. 
It was surrounded by fine grounds, and commanded 
one of the loveliest views of the Hudson. 

" A spirit in my feet 
Led me, who knows how?" 

in the direction of this now vacant and solitary place 
solitary, I believed, with the exception of the gardener 
and his wife, who lived in a cottage back of the gar- 
dens, and who remained the year round, he to attend 
to out-door matters, and she to give housekeeper's care 
to the closed mansion. 



40 THE DEAD LETTER. 

The place had never looked more beautiful to rae, 
not even in the bloom of its June fbliftg6 and flowers, 

than it did as I approached it on this occasion. The 
frosts had turned to every gorgeous color the top- of 
the trees which stood out here and there; back of the 
house, and extending down toward the southern irate, 
by which I entered, a grove of maples and elms 
glowed in the autumn sunshine; the lawn in front 
sloped down to the water's edge, which tlowed by in a 
blue and lordly stream, bearing on its broad ln>om 
picturesque white ships. In the garden, through which 
now walking, many brilliant flowers still lingered : 
asters, gold, pink and purple ; chrysanthemums; some 
dahlias which had been covered from the frost ; panics 
lurking under their broad leaves. It had been the in- 
tention of the young couple to make this their perma- 
nent home after their marriage, going to the city 
only for a couple of the winter months. The very next 
week. I had heard, Eleanor expected to go down to 
help Henry in his selection of new furniture. 

Here the mansion lay, bathed in the rich sunshine ; 
the garden sparkled with llo \\ers a the river with 
ripples, so full, as it were, of consciou>, joy on - 
while the master of all lay in a darkened room await- 
ing his narrow coffin, \c\cr had the uncertainty of 
human purposes BO impressed me .-^ when I looked 
abroad over that stately residence and thought of the 
prosperous future which had come to so awful a stand- 
still. I gathered a handful of pansies they 
Eleanor's favorites. As I approached the IIOUM- by the 
garden, I came nearly upon the portico which extended 
acres- :n front before I perceived that i 1 

occupied. Sitting on its outer edge, with one arm 
half wound around one of its pillars, and her bonnet 
in the- grass at her feet, I beheld the sewing-girl after 
whom I had dispatched an officer to Now York. She 



A STUDY. 41 

did not perceive me, and I had an opportunity of study- 
ing the face of the woman who had fallen under my 
suspicion, when she was unaware that my eye was 
upon it, and when her soul looked out of it, unvailed, 
in the security of solitude. The impression which she 
made upon me was that of despair. It was written on 
attitude and expression. It was neither grief nor 
remorse it was blank despair. It must have been 
half an hour that I remained quiet, watching her. In 
all that time she never stirred hand nor eyelid ; her 
glance was upon the greensward at her feet. When I 
turn to that page of my memoi-y, I see her, photo- 
graphed, as it were, upon it every fold of the dai'k dress, 
which was some worsted substance, frayed, but neat ; 
the black shawl, bordered, drawn close about the slen- 
der shoulders, which had the slight, habitual stoop of 
those who ply the needle for a living ; the jetty hair 
pushed back from her forehead, the marble whiteness 
and rigidity of the face and mouth. 

It was a face made to express passion. And, although 
the only passion expressed now was that of despair, 
so intense that it grew like apathy, I could easily see 
how the rounded chin and full lips could melt into 
softer moods. The forehead was rather low, but fair, 
consorting with the oval of the cheek and chin ; the 
brows dark and rather heavy. I remembered the wild 
black eyes which I had seen the previous day, and 
could guess at their hidden fires. 

This was a girl to attract interest at any time, and I 
mutely wondered what had entangled the threads of 
her fate in the glittering web of a higher fortune, 
which was now suddenly interwoven 'with- the pall of 
death. All her movements had been such as to con- 
firm my desire to ascertain her connection, if any, with 
the tragedy. It seemed to me that if I could see her 
eyes, before she was conscious of observance, I could 



42 THE DEAD LETTER. 

tell whether there was guilt, or only sorrow, in her 
In-art ; therefore I remained quiet, waiting. But I had 
mistaken my powers, or the eyes overbore them. When 
she did lilt them, as a steamer came puffing around the 
base of the mountain which ran down into the river at 
the east, and they suddenly encountered mine, where I 
stood not ten feet from her, I saw only black, unfath- 
omable depths, pouring out a trouble so intense, that 
my own gaze dropped beneath their power. 

She did not start, upon observing me, which, as I 
thought, a guilty person,buried in sell-accusing reveries, 
would have done it seemed only slotvly to penetrate 
her consciousness that a stranger was confronting her ; 
when I raised my eyes, which had sunk beneath the 
intensity of hers, she was moving rapidly away toward 
the western gate. 

" Miss Sullivan, you have forgotten your bonnet." 
With a woman's instinct she put up her hand to 
smooth her disordered hair, came slowly back and took 
the bonnet which I extended toward her, without 
speaking. I hesitated what move to make next. I 
wished tn aiMress her she was hen-, in my grasp, and 
I ought to >ati>l'y my>elf, a-< far as possible, about the 
suspicions which I had conceived. J might do her an 
irreparable injury by making my feeling public, if she 
were innocent of any aid or instigation of the crime 
which had been committed, yet there were circum- 
stances which could hardly pass unchallenged. That 
unaccountable absence of hers on Saturday, t'rm three 
o'clock until an hour after the mtinlcr was committed ; 
the statement of her aunt that she was in the city, and 
my finding her in this spot, in connection with tin- mid- 
night visit to the window, and the other things which 
1 had observed, were sufficient to justify inquiry. V . 
if I alarmed her prematurely I should have the less 
chance of coming upon proofs, and her accomplices, if 



A CONVBBSATION. 43 

she had any, would be led to take steps for greater 
safety. Anyhow, I would make her speak, and find 
what there was in her voice. 

"Your aunt told me that you had gone to New 
York," I said, stepping along beside her, as she turned 
away. 

" She thought so. Did you come here to see me, 
sir ?" stopping short in her walk, and looking at me as 
if she expected me to tell my business. 

This again did not look like the trepidation of guilt. 

" No. I came out for a walk. I suppose our 
thoughts have led us both in the same direction. This 
place will have an interest to many, hereafter." 

" Interest ! the interest of vulgar curiosity ! It will 
give them something to talk about. I hate it !" She 
spoke more to herself than to me, while a ray of fire 
darted from those black orbs ; the next instant her face 
subsided into that passionate stillness again. 

Her speech was not that of her station ; I recalled 
what her aunt had said about the education she had 
bestowed on her, and decided that the girl's mind was 
one of those which reach out beyond their circumstances 
aspiring ambitious and that this aspiring nature 
may have led her into her present unhappiness. That 
she was unhappy, if not sinful, it took but a glance to 
assure me. 

" So do I hate it. I do not like to have the grief of 
my friends subjected to cold and curious eyes." 

" Yet, it is a privilege to have the right to mourn. I 
tell you the sorrow of that beautiful lady he was to 
have married is light compared with trouble that some 
feel. There are those who envy her." 

It was not her words, as much as her wild, half- 
choked voice, which gave effect to them; she spoke, 
and grew silent, as if conscious that the truth had been 
wrung from her in the ear of a stranger. We had 



44 THE DEAD LETTER. 

reached the gate, and she seemed anxious to escape 
through it; but I held it in my hand, looking hard at 
her, as I said "It may have been the hand of envy 
which dashed the cup of fruition from her lips. Her 
young life is withered never to bloom again. I can 
imagine but one wretchedness in this world greater 
than hers and that is the wretchedness of the guilty 
person who has mttrdtr written on his or her soul." 

A spasm contracted her face ; she pushed at the gate 
which 1 still held. 

" All. don't," -he said; "let me p 

I opened it and she darted througli, fleeing along 
the road which led out around the backward slope of 
the hill, like lo pursued by the stinging lly. Her path 
was away from the village, so that I hardly expected 
to see her again that day. 

Within t\\> minutes the gardener's wife came up the 
road to the gate. She had been down to \ i-it the corpse 
of her young master; her eyes were red with weep- 
ing. 

* How do you do, Mr. lledlii-ld? Tlu-sr be infera- 
ble times, ain't they? My very heart i^ son- in my 
breast; but I couldn't cry a tear iii the room \\here lu> 
was, a-lying there like life, for Miss Eleanor sot by him 
like a statue. It made me cold all o\vr to Me her I 
couldn't speak to save me. The father and mother are 
j\\>{ broke down, too." 

" How is Miss Eleanor, this morning ?" 

"The Lord knows ! She doesn't lo any thing but 
pit there, as quiet as can be. It'> a bad symptom, to 
my thinking. 4 Still waters run deep.' They're a-dread- 
ing the hour when they'll have t-> n,n,.\e the body 
from the house they're afraid her mind '11 

"No, no," I answered, inwardly shuddering; ' % 
nor' s reason is too fine and powerful to be uust. 
even by a blow like this." 



THE GARDENER'S WIFE. 45 

" Who was that went out the gate as I came around 
the bend ? Was it that girl, again ?" 

" Do you mean Leesy Sullivan ?" 

" Yes, sir. Do you know her ? She acts mighty 
queei-, to my thinkin'. She was out here Saturday, sit- 
tin' in the summer-house, all alone, 'till the rain began 
to fall I guess she got a good soaking going home. I 
didn't think much about her ; it was Saturday, and I 
thought likely she was taking a holiday, and there's 
many people like to come here, it's so pleasant. But 
what's brought her here again to-day is more'n I can. 
guess. Do you know, sir ?" 

" I do not. I found her sitting on the portico look- 
ing at the river. Maybe she comes out for a walk and 
stops here to rest. She probably feels somewhat at 
home, she has sewed so much in the family. I don't 
know her at all, myself; I never spoke to her until just 
now. Did you get much acquainted with her, when 
she was in the house ?" 

" I never spoke to her above a dozen times. I wasn't 
at the house much, and she was always at work. She 
seemed fast with her needle, and a girl who minded 
her own business. I thought she was rather proud, for 
a seamstress she was handsome, and I reckon she 
knew it. She's getting thinner ; she had red spots on 
her cheeks, Saturday, that I didn't like looked con- 
sumptive." 

" Did the family treat her with particular kindness ?" 
It was as near as I cared to put into words what I was 
thinking of. 

" You know it's in the whole Moreland race to be 
generous and kind to those under them. I've known 
Henry more than once, when the family was going out 
for a drive, to insist upon Miss Sullivan's taking a seat 
in the carriage but never when he was going alone. 
I heard him tell his mother that the poor girl looked 



46 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

tired, as if she needed a breath of air and a bit of free- 
dom, and the kind-hearted lady would laugh at her 
son, but do as he said. It was just like him. But I'd 
stake my everlasting futur' that he never took any ad- 
vantage of her feelings, if it's that you're thinking of, 
Mr. Rcdfield." 

" So would I, Mrs. Scott. There is no one can havo 
a higher respect for the character of that noble young 
gentleman, than I. I would resent an insult to his 
memory more quickly than if he had been my brother. 
But, as you say, there is something queer in the notions 
of Miss Sullivan. I know that I can trust your d: - 
tion, Mrs. Scott, for I have heard it well spoken of; do 
not say any thing to others, not even to your huslnmd, 
but keep a watch on that person if she should come 
here any more. Report to me what she does, and what 
spot she frequent*." 

" I will do so, sir. But I don't think any harm of 
her. She may have been unfortunate enough to think 
too much of the kindness with whieh lie treated her. 
If so, I pity her she could hardly help it, poor thing. 
Henry Moreland was a young gentleman a good many 
people loved." 

She put her handkerchief to her eyes in a fresh burst 
of tears. Wishing her good-morning, I turned toward 
the village, hardly earing what I should do m , M 
Scott was an American woman, and one to be truMi-d ; 
I felt that she would be the best detective I could ]>laoe 
at that spot. 

When I reached the office, on my homeward r. 
went in. Mr. Argyll was there alone, his lu-ad leaning 
on his hand, his face anxious and worn, his brow con- 
tracted in deep thought As soon as I came in, he 
sprung up, closed the outer door, and said to me, in a 
low voice, 

M Richard, another strange thing has occurred." 



BOBBED. 47 

I stared at him, afraid to ask what. 

" I have been robbed of two thousand dollars." 

" When and how ?" 

" That is what I do not know. Four days ago I 
drew that amount in bills from the Park Bank. I placed 
it, in a roll, just as I received it, in my library desk, at 
home. I locked the desk, and have carried the key 
in my pocket. The desk has been locked, as usual, 
every time that I have gone to it. How long the money 
has been gone, I can not say ; I never looked after it, 
since placing it there, until about an hour ago. I wanted 
some cash for expenses this afternoon, and going for it, 
the roll was gone." 

" Haven't you mislaid it ?" 

" No. I have one drawer for my cash, and I placed 
it there. I remember it plainly enough. It has been 
stolen" and he sat down in his chair with a heavy 
sigh. " That money was for my poor Eleanor. She 
was to complete her wedding outfit this week, and the 
two thousand dollars was for refurnishing the place out 
at the Grove. I don't care for the loss so much she 
doesn't need it now but it's singular at this time !" 

He looked up at me, vague suspicions which he could 
not shape floating in his brain. 

" Who knew of your having the money ?" 

" No one, that I am aware of, except my nephew. 
He drew it for me when he went down to the city last 
Wednesday." 

" Could you identify the money ?" 

" Not all of it. I only remember that there was one 
five hundred dollar bill in the package, a fresh issue of 
the Park Bank, of which, possibly, they may have the 
number. The rest was city money of various denomi- 
nations and banks. I can think of but one thing which 
seems probable. James must have been followed from 
the city by some professional thief, who saw him obtain 



48 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the money, and kept an eye upon it, waiting for a suit- 
able opportunity, until it was deposited in the desk. 
The key is a common one, which could be easily dupli- 
cated, and we are so careless in this quiet community 
that a thief might enter at almost any hour of the night. 
Perhaps the same villain dogged poor Henry in hopes 
of another harvest." 

" You forget that there was no attempt to rob Henry." 

" True true. Yet the murderer may have been 
frightened away before he had secured his prize." 

v -In which case, he would have returned, as the body 
remained undiscovered all night." 

*' It may be so. I am dizzy with thinking it over 
and over." 

" Try and not think any more, dear sir," I said, 
gently. " You are feverish and ill now. I am going, 
this afternoon, with the friends to the city, and I will 
put the police on the watch for the money. We wil 1 
get the number of the large bill, if possible, from the 
bank, and I will have investigations made as to the 
passengers of Wednesday on the train with James. 
Have you said any thing to him about your loss ?" 

" I have not seen him sinci- I madf ilu discovery. 
You may tell him if you see him first ; and do what 
you can, Richard, for I feel as weak as a child." 



CARRYING AWAY THE DEAD. 49 



CHAPTER V. 

MR. BURTON, THE DETECTIVE. 

WHEN I came out of the office, I encountered James 
on the steps, for the first time that day. I could not 
stop to make known the robbery to him, and telling 
him that his uncle wished to see him a few minutes, I 
hurried to my boarding-house, where I had barely time 
to take some lunch in my room, while packing a small 
bag to be sent to the cars, before hurrying back to Mr. 
Argyll's to attend the funeral escort to the train. James 
and I were two of the eight pall-bearers, yet neither of 
us could summon fortitude to enter the parlor where 
the body lay ; I believe that James had not yet looked 
upon the corpse. We stood outside, on the steps of 
the piazza, only taking our share of the burden after 
the coffin was brought out into the yard. While we 
stood there, among many others, waiting, I chanced to 
observe his paleness and restlessness ; he tore his black 
gloves in putting them on ; I saw his fingers trembling. 
As for me, my whole being seemed to pause, as a single, 
pi-olonged shriek rung out of the darkened mansion and 
floated off on the sunshine up to the ear of God. They 
were taking the lover away from his bride. The next 
moment the coffin appeared ; I took my place by its 
side, and we moved away toward the depot, passing 
over the very spot where the corpse was found. James 
was a step in advance of me, and as we came to the 
place, some strong inward recoil made him pause, then 
step aside and walk around the ill-starred spot. I no- 
ticed it, not only for the momentary confusion into 
which it threw the line, but because I had never sup- 
posed him susceptible to superstitious or imaginative 
influences. 
3 



50 THE DEAD LETTER. 

A private car had been arranged for. James and I 
occupied one seat; the swift motion of the train was 
opposed to the idea of death; it had an exhilarating ef- 
fect upon my companion, whose paleness passed away, 
and who began to experience a reaction after his de- 
pression of feeling. He talked to me incessantly upon 
trifling subjects which I do not now recall, and in that 
low, yet sharp voice which is most easily distinguished 
through the clatter of a moving train. The necessity 
for attending to him for making answers to irrelevant 
questions, when my mind was preoccupied, annoyed 
me. My thoughts centered about the coffin, and its 
inmate, taking his last ride under circumstances so dif- 
ferent from those under which he had set out, only 
two days ago, to meet her whom his heart adored ; 
whose hand ho never clasped whose lips he never 
touched the fruition of whose hopes was cut off ut- 
terly whose fate, henceforth, was among the mysteri- 
ous paths of the great eternity. 

I could not, for an instant, feel the least lightness of 
heart. My nature was too sympathetic ; the currents 
of my young blood flowed too warmly, lor me to terl 
otherwise than deeply affected by the catastrophe. My 
eyes shed inward tears at the sight of the parents sit- 
ting in advance of us, their heads bowed beneath the 
stroke; and, oh! my heart shed tears of blood at 
thought of Eleanor, left behind us to the utter darkness 
of a night which had fallen while it was yet morning. 

Musing upon Acr, I wondered that her cousin James 
could throw off* the troubles of others as he did, inter- 
esting himself in passing trifles. I have said that I 
never liked him much; but in this I was an exception 
to the general rule. He was an almost universal 1 1 \ . ]- 
ite. At least, he seldom failed to please and win those 
for whom he exerted himself to be agreeable. His 
voice was soft and well modulated such a voice as, 



UNSEEMLY LEVITY. 51 

should one hear it from another apartment, would make 
him wish to see the speaker ; his manner was gracious 
and flattering. I had often wondered why his evident 
passion for Eleanor had not secured her interest in 
return, before she knew Henry Moreland, and had 
answered myself that it was one of two reasons : either 
their cousinly intercourse had invested him, to her, with 
the feelings of a brother or relative, or her fine percep- 
tions, being the superior woman which she was, had 
unconsciously led her to a true estimate of his qualities. 
This day I felt less affinity for him than ever before, as 
I gazed at his dark, thin features, and met the light of 
eyes brilliant, unsteady and cold. That intense selfish- 
ness which I had secretly attributed to him, Avas now, 
to my perhaps too acute apprehension, painfully appar- 
ent. In my secret heart, as I listened to his light re- 
marks, and perceived the rise of spirits which he hardly 
endeavored to check, I accused him of gladness that a 
rival was out of the way, and that the chances were 
again open for the hand of his beautiful and wealthy 
cousin. At first he had been shocked, as we all were ; 
but now that he had time to view the occurrence with 
an eye to the future, I believed that he was already cal- 
culating the results with regard to his own hopes and 
wishes. I turned from him with a feeling of aversion. 

After neglecting to reply to him until he was obliged 
to drop the one-sided conversation, I recollected that I 
had not yet spoken to him in regard to his uncle's loss ; 
so I said to him quite suddenly, 

" Mr. Argyll has been robbed of a sum of money." 

An inexplicable expression flashed into his face and 
passed off ; it went as soon as it came. 

" So he informed me, just before we started. He 
says that you will put the police on the track of it 
that possibly the five-hundred dollar bill will be identi- 
fied. It was taken from his desk, it appears." 



52 THE DEAD LETTER. 

"Yes; I wonder what will happen next." 

"Ay! I wonder what will." 

"Who knows what :i narrow escape you may have 
had," said I. "It is well that you came here in limad 
daylight; else, like poor Henry, you might have fallen 
a victim to a blow in the dark. Mr. Argyll thinks you 
must have been followed from the city by some profes- 
sional burglar." 

" He thinks so ?" he asked, while the shadow of a 
smile just showed a second in the mirror of his 
it was as if there was a smile in his heart, anl a reflec- 
tion from its invisible self fell athwa/t his eyes ; but 
he turned them away immediately. 

"It's queer," he resumed; "horribly queer; don't 
you think so? I saw that money in the desk Friday 
evening. Uncle asked me to hold the lamp a moment, 
while he found some papers, and I noticed the roll of 
bills lying in his cash-drawer, ju^t as I hail given them 
to him. It must have been abstracted Saturday or 
Sunday it's queer confoundedly so ! There must be 
some great villain lurking in our midst !" this \;\^\ M -n- 
tenee he uttered with an emphasis, looking me through 
with his black eyes. 

There was suspicion in his gaze, and my own fell be- 
fore it. Innocence itself will blush if obliged to con- 
front the insult of accusation. I had had many wild, 
and doubtless many wrong and suspi<-i<>us thoughts 
about various persons, since the discovery of the mur- 
der ; and this was turning the tables on me rather sud- 
denly. It never occurred to me that among the dozens 
upon whom vague and flying suspicions might alight, 
might be myself. 

" There is an awful mystery somewhere," I stam- 
mered. 

" Humph ! yes, there is. My uncle Argyll is just the 
man to be wronged by some one of his many friends 



ADVICE. 53 

and dependents. He is too confiding, too unsuspecting 
of others as I have told him. He has been duped 
often but this this is too bad !" 

I looked up again, and sharply, to see what he meant. 
If he intended covertly to insinuate that / was open to 
imputation as one of the " friends or dependents " who 
could wrong a benefactor, I wished to understand him. 
A friend, I knew, Mr. Argyll was to me ; a friend to be 
grateful for ; but I was no dependent upon his bounty, 
as his nephew was, and the hot blood rushed to my face, 
the fire to my eye, as I answered back the cool gaze of 
James with a haughty stare. 

" There is no love lost between us, Richard," he said, 
presently, " which is principally your fault ; but I am 
friendly to you ; and as a friend, I would suggest that 
you do not make yourself conspicuous in this affair. If 
you should put yourself forward at all, being so young, 
and having, apparently, so small an interest in the mat- 
ter, you may bring unpleasant remark upon yourself. 
Let us stand back and allow our elders to do the work. 
As to that money, whether it has or has not any con- 
nection with the the other affair, time will perhaps 
show. Let the police do what they can with it my 
advice to you is to keejD in the background." 

" Your course may be prudent, James," was my 
reply ; " I do not ask your approbation of mine. But 
to one thing I have made up my mind. So long as I 
live, and the murderer of Henry Moreland is undiscov- 
ered, I will never rest. In Eleanor's name, I consecrate 
myself to this calling. I can face the whole world in 
her behalf, and fear nothing." 

He turned away with a sneer, busying himself with 
the prospect from the window. During the rest of the 
ride we said little ; his words had given me a curious 
sensation ; I had sustained so many shocks to my feel- 
ings within the last forty-eight hours, that this new one 



54 THE DEAD LETTER. 

of finding myself under the eye of suspicion, mingled 
in with the perplexing whirl of the whole, until I al- 
most began to doubt my own identity and that of 
others. A vision of Leesy Sullivan, whose wild foot- 
steps might still be tracking hills and fields, hovered 
before me and out of all this distraction, my thoughts 
settled upon Eleanor. I prayed God earnestly to be 
with her in this hour ; either to strengthen her heart and 
brain to bear her afnict ion without UtiDgtOroini lieneath 
the weight, or to take her at once to Himself, where 
Henry awaited her in the mansions of their eternal home. 

The arrival of the train at Thirtieth street recalled 
me to my present duties. Carriages were in waiting to 
convey the coffin and its escort to the house of the 
parents, the funeral being arranged for the following 
day. I saw the orticcr who had gone down from Blank- 
vine in the inoriiiiiLT, waiting in the depot to speak to 
me; but I did not need to be told that he had not 
found the sewing-girl at her place of business. I made 
an appointment to meet him in the evening at the Met- 
ropolitan, and took my place in the sad procession to 
the house of the Morulands. 

I was anxious to give notice of the robbery at the 
bank, and to ascertain if they could identity any of the 
money, especially the large bill, whieh, being ne\v, I 
hoped they would have on record. Banking In ni s win- 
over, however, for the day, and it was only ly intrud- 
ing the matter upon the notice of .Mr. Moreland t|, a t I 
could get any thing accomplished. Thi- I decided to 
do; when he told me that, liv ir<>ing din-etlv to tin- 
bank, bethought I could gainacces- to the cashier ; :;nd 
if not, he gave me his address, so that I might seek him 
at his iv-idencc. Mr. Moreland also ad\ : 
take with me some competent detect i\e, who should hi- 
witness to the Statement of the ca>liier with regard to 
the money paid to James Argyll, on his uncle's draft, 



" UNMANNED." 55 

and be employed to put the rest of the force on the 
lookout for it, or any portion of it which was identi- 
fiable. He gave me the name of an officer with whom 
he had a chance acquaintance, and of whose abilities he 
had a high opinion ; telling me to make free use of his 
name and influence, if he had any, with him, and the 
police. 

" And please, Mr. Redfield or James here, if you 
should be too busy make out an advertisement for the 
morning papers, offering a reward of five thousand 
dollars for the detection and conviction of the the 
murderer." 

James was standing by us during the conversation ; 
and I almost withdrew my verdict upon his selfishness, 
as I marked how he shrunk when the eye of the be- 
reaved father rested upon him, and how vainly he 
endeavored to appear calm at the affecting spectacle of 
the gray-haired gentleman forcing his quivering lips to 
utter the word " murderer." He trembled much more 
thun myself, as each of us wrung Mr. Moreland's hand, 
and departed down the steps. 

"It unmanned him," he said, stopping a moment on 
the pavement to wipe the perspiration from his brow, 
though the day was not at all warm. " I believe," he 
added, as he walked along, " that if the person who 
resolves to commit a crime would reflect on all the 
consequences of that act, it would remain undone for^ 
ever. But he does not. He sees an object in the way 
of his wishes, and he thrusts it aside, reckless of the 
ruin which will overwhelm surrounding things, until 
he sees the wreck about him. Then it is too late for 
remorse to the devil with it. But I needn't philoso- 
phize before you, Richard, who have precociously 
earned that privilege of wisdom " -with that disagree- 
able half-laugh of his " only I was thinking how the 
guilty party must have felt could he have seen Henry'a 



58 THE DEAD LETTER. 

father as we saw him just now," and again I felt his 
eye upon me. Certainly, tin-re seemed no prospect of 
our friendship increasing. I would rather have dis- 
pensed with his company, while I put my full energies 
into the business before me; but it was quite natural 
that he should expect to accompany me on an errand 
in wh'u-h he must have as deep an interest as my- 
self. Coming out of the avenue upon Broadway we 
took a stage, ridlhg down as far as Grand street, when 
we got out and walked to the office of the detective- 
police. 

The chief was not in at the moment of our entrance ; 
we were received by a subordinate and questioned as 
to our visit. The morning papers had heralded the 
melancholy and mysterious murder through the eity; 
hundreds of thousands of persons had already marveled 
over the boldness and success, the silciiee and siidden- 
neSS with which tin- deed had been done, leaving not a 
clue by which to trace the perpetrator. It had lieen 
the sensation of the day throughout New York and its 
environs. The public mind was busy with conjectures 
as to the motive for the crime. And this was to !.< 
one of the sharp thorns pressed into the hearts of the 
distressed friends of the murdered man. Suddenly, 
into the garish light of day, beneath the pitiless gaze 
of a million curious eyes, was dragged every word, or 
net, or circumstance of the life so abruptly closed. It 
*was necessary to the investigation ( .f tin- atl'air, that 
the most secret pa_u'es ,,f his history should be read 
out and it i> not in the nature of a daily paper to 
neglect such opportunities for turning an honest penny, 
let me say that not one character in ten thousand 
could have stood this trial by lire as did Henry More- 
land's. No wronged hireling, no open enemy, no secret 
intrigue, no gambling debts not one blot on the bright 
record of his amiable, Christian 



MR. BURTON. 67 

To return to the detective-office. Our errand at 
once received attention from the person in charge, who 
sent a messenger after the chief. He also informed us 
that several of their best men had gone up to Blank- 
ville that afternoon to confer with the authorities there. 
The public welfare demanded, as well as the interest 
of private individuals, that the guilty should be ferret- 
ed out, if possible. The apparent impunity with which 
the crime had been committed was startling, making 
every one feel it a personal matter to aid in discour- 
aging any more such practices ; besides, the police 
knew that their eiforts would be well rewarded. 

"While we sat talking with the official, I noticed the 
only other inmate of the room, who made a peculiar 
impression upon me for which I could not account. 

He was a large man, of middle age, with a florid 
face and sandy hair. He was quietly dressed in the 
ordinary manner of the season, and with nothing to 
mark him from a thousand other men of similar appear- 
ance, unless it was the expression of his small, blue- 
gray eyes, whose glance, Avhen I happened to encounter 
it, seemed not to be looking at me but into me. How- 
ever, he turned it away, and occupied himself with 
looking through the window at the passers-by. He 
appeared to be a stranger, awaiting, like ourselves, the 
coming of the chief. 

Desiring to secure the services of the particular 
detective whom Mr. Moreland had recommended, I 
asked the subordinate in attendance, if he could inform 
me where Mr. Burton was to be found. 

" Burton ? I don't know of any one of that name, 
I think if I may except my stage experience with 
Mr. Toodles," he added, with a smile, called up by 
some passing vision of his last visit to the theater. 

"Then there is no Mr. Burton belongs to your 
force ?" 

3* 



68 THK DEAD LETTER. 

" Not that I am acquainted with. He may be one 
of us, for all that. We don't pretend to know our own 
brothers here. You can ask Mr. Browne when he 
comes in." 

All this time the stranger by tin- window sat motion- 
less, absorbed in looking upon the throng of persons 
and vehicles in the street beneath ; and now I, having 
nothing else to do, regarded him. I felt a magnetism 
emanate t'n>m him, as from a manufactory of vital forces ; 
I felt, instinctively, that lie was possessed of an iron 
will and indomitable courage ; I was speculating, ac- 
cording to my dreamy habit, upon his characteristics, 
when the chief appeared, and we, that is. James and 
myself, laid our case before him at the same time I 
mentioned that Mr. Mori-land had desired me to ask 
for Mr. Burton to be detailed to aid our in\ 'estimations. 

"Ah ! yes," said Mr. Browne, "there are not many 
outsiders who know that person. He is my right hand, 
but I don't let the left know what he d>eth. Mr. 
Moreland had his services once. I remember, in tracking 
some burglars who had entered his banking-house. 
Poor young Moreland ! I've seen him often! Shock- 
ing affair, truly. We mustn't rest till we know more 
about it. I only hope we may be of service to his 
afflicted father. Burton is just here, fortunately." and 
he beckoned to the very stranger sitting in the window, 
who had overheard the inquiries made for him without 
the slightest demonstration that such a being had any 
existence as far M he was concern. !. and who now 
slowly arose, and approached us. We four went into 
an inner room, where we were introduced to each other, 
and drawing up our chairs in a close circle, we b. 
in low voices, the di-cu--sii.il of our bii-:: 

Mr. Broun.- was voluble when he heard that a rob- 
bery had been committed in Mr. Arj\ IP- 
He bad no doubt, he said, that the two crimes were 



THE RESTRAINED WON. 59 

connected, and it would be strange, indeed, if nothing 
could be discovered relating to either of them. He 
hoped that the lesser crime would be the means of be- 
traying the greater. He trusted the rogue, whoever 
he or she might be, had, in this imprudent act, done 
something to betray himself. He had hopes of the 
five-hundred dollar bill. 

Mr. Burton said very little, beyond asking two or 
three questions ; but he was a good listener. Much of 
the time he sat with his eyes fixed upon James, who 
did a good deal of the talking. I could not, for the 
life of me, tell whether James was conscious of those 
blue-gray eyes ; if he was, they did not much disturb 
him ; he made his statements in a calm and lucid man- 
ner, gazing into Mr. Bui-ton's face with a clear and 
open look. After a while, the latter began to grow 
uneasy ; powerful as was his physical and mental frame, 
I saw a trembling of both ; he forced himself to remain 
quiet in his chair but to me he had the air of a lion, 
who sees its prey but a little distance off, and who 
trembles with restraint. The light in his eye narrowed 
down to one gleam of concentrated fire a steely, 
glittering point he watched the rest of us and said 
little. If I had been a guilty man I should have shrunk 
from that observation, through the very walls, or out 
of a five-story window, if there had been no other way ; 
it struck me that it would have been unbearable to any 
accusing conscience ; but my own mind being burdened 
with no weightier sins than a few boyish follies saving 
the selfishness and earthliness which make a part of all 
human natures I felt quite free, breathing easily, 
while I noticed, with interest, the silent change going 
on in the detective. 

More and more like a lion about to spring, he grew ; 
but whether his prey was near at hand and visible, or 
far away and visible only to his mental gaze, I could 



00 THE DEAD LETTEK. 

not tell. I fairly jumped, when he at last rose quickly 
to his feet ; I expected to see him bound upon some 
guilty ghost to us intangible, and shakr it to ji'u>ces in 
an honest rage ; but whatever was the passion within 
him, he controlled it, saying only, a little impatiently, 

"Enough, gentlemen, we have talked enough! 
Browne, will you go with Mr. Argyll t> the bank, ami 
see about that money? I do not wish to be known 
there as belonging to your force. I will walk to his 
hotel with Mr. Redfield, and you can meet us there at 
any hour you choose to appoint." 

" It will take until tea-time to attend to the bank. 
Say about eight o'clock, then, we will be at the " 

" Metropolitan," said I, ami the quartette paiMed, 
half going up and half going down town. 

On our way to the hotel we tell into an easy conver- 
sation on topics entirely removed iVom the one which 
absorbed the gravest thoughts of both. Mr. l>urt<>n 
did more talking now than he had d<me at the office, 
perhaps with the object of making me express myself 
freely ; though if so, he managed \\ith so much tact 
that his wish was not apparent, lie had but poor sue- 
: the calamity of our house lay too heaviK mi me for 
me to forget it in an instant ; but 1 \\as constantly sur- 
i at the eharacter of the man whose acquaintance 
making, lie was intelligent, even educated, a 
gentleman in language and manner a quite different 
person, in fact, from what 1 !.-d in a member 

of the deteotive-polioa. 

Shut up in the private parlor which I obtained at the 
Metropolitan, the subject of tin- murder was again 
broached and thoroughly diseus-n i. Iff, I'.nit.n w.-n 
my confidence so inevitably that I felt no hesitation in 
nnvailing to him the duine-tic hearth of Mr. Argyll, 
whenever the habits or circumstances of the family 
were consulted in their bearing upon the mystery. Ami 



A 6ECEET EEAD. 61 

when he said to me, fixing his eye upon me, but speak- 
ing gently, 

" You, too, loved the young lady," I neither blushed 
nor grew angry. That penetrating eye had read the 
secret of my heart, which had never been spoken or 
written, yet I did not feel outraged that he had dared 
to read it out to me. If he could find any matter 
against me in that holiest truth of my existence, he was 
welcome to it. 

" Be it so," I said ; " that is with myself, and no one 
else." 

" There are others who love her," he continued, " but 
there is a difference in the quality of love. There is 
that which sanctifies, and something, called by the same 
name, which is an excuse for infinite perfidy. In my 
experience I have found the love of woman and the 
love of money at the bottom of most mischief the 
greed of gain is by far the commonest and strongest ; 
and when the two are combined, there is motive enough 
for the darkest tragedy. But you spoke of a young 
woman, of whom you have suspicions." 

I told Mr. Burton that in this matter I trusted to his 
discretion ; that I had not brought it to notice before 
Mr. Browne, because I shrunk from the danger of fix- 
ing a ruinous suspicion upon a person who might be 
perfectly innocent ; yet that circumstances were such 
as to demand investigation, which I was sure he was 
the person to carry on. I then gave him a careful ac- 
count of every thing I had seen or learned about the 
sewing-girl. He agreed with me that she ought to be 
placed under secret surveillance. I told him that the 
officer from Blankville would be in after tea, when we 
could consult together and dispose of the discussion be- 
fore the arrival of James and Mr. Browne and I then 
rung the bell, ordering a light supper in our room. 

The Blaiikville official had nothing to report of Miss 



62 THE DEAD LETTER. 

Sullivan, except that she had not arrived either at her 
boarding-house or at the shop where she was emj>! 
and her character stood high at both places. She had 
been represented to him as a " strictly proper" person, 
very reserved, in poor health, with a sad appearance, 
and an excellent workwoman that no gentlemen were 
ever known to call to see her, and that she never went 
out after returning to her boarding-house at tin- close 
of work-hours. We then requested him to say nothing 
about her to his brother officers, and to keep tin- matter 
from the newspapers, as we should regret doing an ir- 
reparable injury to one who might be guilt!. 

It seemed as if the Fates were in favor of the guilty. 
Mr. Browne, punctually at eight o'clock, reported that 
there was none of the money paid out t> .lames Argyll 
at Mr. Argyll's order, which the bank would identity 
not even its own bill of five hundred dollars, whieh was 
a recent issue. They had paid out such a bill on the 
draft, but the number was not known to them. 

" However," said Mr. Browne, "bills of that denom- 
ination are not common, and wo shall be on the look- 
out for them, wherever offered." 

" Bat even should the robber be discovered, there is 
no proof that it would establish any connection with 
the murder. It may have been acoincidence," remarked 
James. ki I have often noticed that one calamity is 
sure to be followed by another. If there is a railroad 
disaster, a powder-mill explosion, a steamer destroyed 
by fire, before the horror of the first accident has done 
thrilling our nerves, we are pretty certain to be startled 
by another catastrophe." 

"I, too," said Mr. Burton, "have remarked &i 
cession of events echoes, as it were, f..ll..\v in^ the 
clap of thunder. And I have usually found that, like 
the echoes, there was a natural cause for them." 

James moved uneasily in his chair, arose, pulled aside 



A SUGGESTION DISMISSED. 63 

the curtain, and looked out into the night. I had often 
noticed that he was somewhat superstitious ; perhaps 
he saw the eyes of Henry Moreland looking down at 
him from the starry hights ; he twitched the curtains 
together with a shiver, and came back to us. 

" It is not impossible," he said, keeping his face in the 
shadow, for he did not like us to see how the night had 
affected him, " that some one of the clerks in Mr. More- 
land's 'banking-house perhaps some trusted and re- 
sponsible person was detected by Henry, in making 
false entries, or some other dishonesty and that to save 
himself the disgrace of betrayal and dismissal, he has 
put the discoverer out of the way. The whole busi- 
ness of the establishment ought to be thoroughly over- 
hauled. It appears that Henry went directly to the 
cars from the office ; so that if any trouble had arisen, 
between him and one of the employees, there would 
have been no opportunity for his consulting his father, 
who was not at the place all that afternoon." 

" Your suggestion is good," said Mr. Browne, " and 
must be attended to." 

"The whereabouts of every one of the employees, 
down to the porter, at the time of the murder, are al- 
ready accounted for. They were all in the city," said 
Mr. Burton, with precision. 

Shortly after, the party separated for the night. An 
urgent invitation came from Mr. Moreland for James 
and myself to stop at his house during our stay in the 
city ; but we thought it better not to disturb the quiet 
of the house of mourning with the business which we 
wished to press forward, and returned an answer to 
that effect. It was nearly ten o'clock when James rec- 
ollected that we had not been to the offices of the daily 
journals with the advertisements which ought to ap- 
pear in the morning. It was the work of a few minutes 
for me to write one out, which we then copied on three 



04 THE DEAD LETTKB. 

or four sheets of paper, and finding nn errand-boy 
below, we dispatched him with two of tin- copies to as 
many journals, and ourselves hurrii'd otl'with the others. 
I went to one establishment and my companion to 
another, in order to hasten proceedings, knowing that 
it was doubtful if we could - t them inserted at that 
late hour. Having > my satisfaction with 

ray own errand, I thought I would walk over to the 
next street and meet .lames, whom, having a little 
further than I to cjo, I would probably meet, returnin<_r. 
As I neared the building to which he had -jone, and 
which was brilliantly lighted up t<>r its night-Work, I 
saw .lames come out on the pavement, look around him 
an instant, and then start oil' in a direction opposite to 
that which would lead back to Broadway and his hotel. 
Jle had not observed me, \\lio chanced to lie in shadow 
at the moment ; and I, without any particular m 
which I could analv/.c. started after him, thinking to 
overtake him and oll'rr to join him in a walk. lie went, 
however, at so rapid a pace, that I still remained be- 
hind. Our course lay through Nassau and Fulton 
Streets, to the Brooklyn ferry. I quickened mv pace 
almost to a run, as James passed into the t'crrv ! 
for I saw that a boat was alxuit to start ; but I had a 
vexatious delay in lindiiiLT small change, so that I got 
through just in time to see the boat move oil', .1 
himself having to take a llyin<_r leap to reach it ai'irr it 
was under way. At that hour there was a boat only 
every fifteen minutes; of r up the pursuit ; 

and sittit)'_' down at the end of the bridge, I allowed 
the cool wind from the bay and ri\er to blow a 
my hot lace, while I gazed out on the .lark u 
listening to their incessant moan'mir about the piers, and 
watching \\here they ^limmered beneath the li^l,' 
the opposite shore. The blue and red lamps of the 
moving vessels, in my present mood, had a weird and 



MUSINGS. 65 

ghastly effect ; the thousands of masts of the moored 
shipping stood up naked against the sky, like a forest 
of blighted, skeleton pines. Sadness, the deepest I had 
ever felt in my life, fell upon me sadness too deep for 
any expression. The shifting water, slipping and sigh- 
ing about the works of men which fretted it ; the un- 
approachable, glittering sky ; the leafless forest, the 
wind fresh from its ocean solitudes these partially 
interpreted it, but not wholly. Their soul, as far as 
the soul of Nature goes, was in unison with mine ; but 
in humanity lies a still deeper deep, rises a higher hight. 
I was as much alone as if nearly a million fellow-crea- 
tures were not so encircling me. I thought of the 
many tragedies over which these waters had closed ; 
of the secrets they had hidden ; of the many lives 
sucked under these ruthless bridges ; of the dark crea- 
tures who haunted these docks at evil hours but most 
I thought of a distant chamber, where a girl, who yes- 
terday was as full of love and beauty as a morning rose 
is full of dew and perfume whose life ran over with 
light whose step was imperial with the happiness of 
youth lay, worn and pallid, upon her weary bed, 
breathing sighs of endless misery. I thought of the 
funeral procession which to-morrow, at noon, should 
come by this road and travel these waters, to that gar- 
den of repose, whose white tombstones I knew, al- 
though I could not see them, gleamed now under the 
" cold light of stars." 

Thus I sat, wrapped in musings, until a policeman, 
who, it is likely, had long had his eye upon me, won- 
dering if I were a suspicious character, called out 
" Take care of your legs, young man !" and I sprung to 
my feet, as the return boat came into her slip, drifting 
up and bumping sullenly against the end of the bridge 
where my legs had been dangling. 

I waited until, among the not numerous passengers, 



66 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I perceived James hurrying by, when I slipped my hand 
into his arm quietly, saying, 

" You led me quite a race what in the world have 
you been across to Brooklyn for?" 

He jumped at my voice and touch; then grew angry, 
as people are apt to do when they are startled or fright- 
ened, after the shock is over. 

" What business is that of yours, sir? How dare 
you follow me ? If you have taken upon yourself the 
office of spy, let me know it.*' 

" I beg your pardon," I answered, withdrawing from 

his arm, " I walked over to the H office to meet 

you, and saw you walk off in this direction. I had no 
particular object in following you, and perhaps ou^ht 
not to have done it." 

"I spoke too hastily," he said, almost immediately. 
" Forget it, Richard. You pounced upon me so m.cv- 
pectedly, you gave me a nervous shock irritated my 
combativcncss, I suppose. I thought, of course, y..u 
had returned to tin- hotel, and feeling too restless to go 
back to my little bedroom, there, I determined to try 
the effect of a ride across the river. The bracing an- 
nas toned me up. I believe I can go back and sleep '' 
offering his arm again, wliieh I took, and we slowly 
d our steps to the Metropolitan. 

I will not pain the heartof my reader by forcing him 
to be one of the mournful procession which followed 
Hi nry Moreland tolas untimely grave. At two o'clock 
of Tuesday, all wa over. The \i.-tim was hidden 
away from the face of the earth smiling, as if asleep, 
dreaming of his Eleanor, he was consigned t<> that 
darkness from whence he sh.nild never awaken and find 
her while the one who had brought him low walked 
id under the sunlight of heaven. To give that 
guilty creature no peace was the purpose of my heart. 

James resolved to return to Blankville by the five 




WHY HE WAS A DETECTIVE. 67 

o'clock train. He looked sick, and said that he felt so 
that the last trying scene had " used him up ;" and 
then, his uncle would surely want one of us to assist 
him at home. To this I assented, intending myself to 
stay in the city a day or two, until Mr. Burton was pre- 
pared to go out to Blankville with me. 

After such of the friends from the village as had come 
down to attend the funeral, had started for home in the 
afternoon cars, I went to my room to have another in- 
terview with the detective. In the mean time, I had 
heard some of the particulars of Mr. Burton's history, 
which had greatly increased the interest I already felt 
in him. He had chosen his present occupation out of 
a consciousness of his fitness for it. He was in inde-j 
pendent circumstances, and 1 accepted no salary for what \-/ 
was with him a labor of love ; seldom taking any of the 
liberal sums pressed upon him by grateful parties who 
had benefited by his skill, except to cover expenses to 
which long journeys, or other necessities of the case, 
might have subjected him. He had been in the " pro- 
fession " but a few years. Formerly he had been a for- 
warding-merchant, universally esteemed for integrity, 
and carrying about him that personal influence which 
men of strong will and unusual discrimination exercise 
over those with whom they come in contact. But that 
he had any extraordinary powers, of the kind which 
had since been developed, he was as ignorant as others. 
An accident, which revealed these to him, shaped the 
future course of his life. One wild and windy night 
the fire-bells of Xew York rung a fierce alarm ; the 
flames of a large conflagration lighted the sky; the 
firemen toiled manfully, as was their wont, but the air 
was bitter and the pavements sleety, and the wintry 
wind " played such fantastic tricks before high heaven " 
as made the angel of mercy almost despair. Before the 
fire could be subdued, four large warehouses had been 



08 THE DEAD LETTER. 

burned to the ground, and in one of them a 1 a r; re- 
quantity of uninsured merchandise for which Mr. Bur- 
ton was responsible. 

The loss, to him, was serious. He barely escaped 
failure by drawing in his business to the smallest com- 
pass, and, by the exercise of great prudence, he man- 
aged to save a remnant of his fortune, with which, as 
soon as he could turn it to advantage, he withdrew 
from his mercantile career. His miiul was In-lit on a 
new business, which unfitted him for any other. 

The fire was supposed to be purely accidental ; the 
insurance companies usually cautions enough, had paid 
over their varying amounts ot' insurance to those for- 
tunate losers, who were not, like Mr. Hurt on, unpre- 
pared. These losers wen- men of wealth, and the 
highest position as busin->s linns high and mighty 
potentates against whom tobreathc aluvath of Zander, 
was to overwhelm the audacious individual in the ruins 
of his own presumption. .Mr. Burton had an inward 
conviction that these men wen-guilty nl'arson. lie knew 
it. His mind perceived their guilt. But he could 
make no allegation against them upon Mich unsubstan- 
tial bans as this. II.- W ' t-> work, quietly and singly, 
to gather up the threads in the cable of his proof; and 
when he had made it .strong enough to hang them t \\ ice 
Over for two lives, that of a porter and a clerk, had 
been lost in the burning buildings he threatened them 
with exposure, unless they made good to him the loss 
which he had sustained through their villainy. They 
laughed at him from their stronghold of iv.j.ect- 
nbility. Ho brought the ca<e into court. Alas! for 
the pure, white statin- !' .lu-li.-e \\hich beautifies- the 
desecrated chambers ot' the law. Handed together, 
with inexhaustible means of corruption at their com- 
mand, the guilty were triumphant. 

During this experience, Mr. Burton tiad got an inside 



A XOBLE MAN. 69 

view of life, in the marts, on exchange, in the halls of 
justice, and in the high and low places where men do 
congregate. It was as if, with the thread in his hand, 
which he had picked out, he unraveled the whole web 
of human iniquity. Burning with a sense of his indi- 
vidual wrongs, he could not look calmly on and see 
others similarly exposed ; he grew fascinated with his 
labor of dragging the dangerous secrets of a commu- 
nity to the light. The more he called into play the 
peculiar faculties of his mind, which made him so suc- 
cessful a hunter on the paths of the guilty, the more 
marvelous became their development. He w r as like an 
Indian on the trail of his enemy the bent grass, the 
broken twig, the evanescent dew which, to the unin- 
itiated, were " trifles light as air," to him were " proofs 
strong as Holy Writ." 

In this work he was actuated by no pernicious mo- 
tives. Upright and humane, with a generous heart 
which pitied the innocent injured, his conscience would 
allow him no rest if he permitted crime, which he could 
see walking where others could not, to flourish unmo- 
lested in the sunshine made for better uses. He attached 
himself to the secret detective-police ; only working up 
such cases as demanded the benefit of his rare powers. 

Thus much of Mr. Burton had the chief of police re- 
vealed to me, during a brief interview in the morning ; 
and this information, it may be supposed, had not less- 
ened the fascinations which he had for me. The first 
thing he said, after the greetings of the day, when he 
came to my room, was, 

" I have ascertained that our sewing-girl has one vis- 
itor, who is a constant one. There is a middle-aged 
woman, a nurse, who brings a child, now about a year 
old, every Sunday to spend half the day with her, when 
she does not go up to Blankville. On such occasions it 
is brought in the evening, some time during the week. 



70 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

It passes, so says the landlady, for the child of a cousin 
of Miss Sullivan's, who was married to a worthless 
young fellow, who deserted her within three months, 
and went off to the west; the mother died at its birth, 
leaving it entirely unprovided for, and Miss Sullivan, 
to keep it out of the charity -hospital, hired this woman 
to nurse it with her own baby, for which she pays her 
twelve shillings a week. She was, according to her 
story to the landlady, very much attached to her poor 
cousin, and could not cast off the little one for her 
sake." 

44 All of which may be true" 

"Or false as the case may turn." 

44 It certainly will not be difficult to ascertain if such 
a cousin really married and died, as represented. The 
girl has not returned to her work yet, I suppose ?" 

44 She has not. Her absence gives the thing a bad 
look. Some connection she undoubtedly has with the 
case ; as for how deeply she was involved in it, we will 
only know when we find out. Whoever the child's 
mother may have been, it seems evident, from the tenor 
of the landlady's story, that Miss Sullivan is much at- 
tached to it ; it is safe to presume that, sooner or later, 
she will return to look after it. In her anxiety to reach 
the nest, she will fly into the trap. I have made ar- 
rangements by which I shall be informed if she appears 
at any of her former haunts, or at the house of the 
nurse. And now, I believe, I will go up to Blank ville 
with you for a single day. I wish to see the ground 
of the tragedy, including Mr. Argyll's residence, tho 
lawn, the library from which the money was abstracted, 
etc. A clear picture of these, carried in my mind, may 
be of use to me in unexpected ways. If we hear 
nothing of her in the village, I will return to the city, 
and await her reappearance here, which will be sure to 
occur within a month." 



" MT PROFESSION." 71 

" Why within a month ?" 

" Women risk themselves, always, where a little 
child demands it. When the nurse finds the baby 
abandoned by its protector, and the wages unpaid, she 
will throw the charge upon the authorities. To pre- 
vent this, the girl will be back here to see after it. 
However, I hope we shall not be a month getting at 
what we want. It will be curious if we don't finish 
the whole of this melancholy business before that. And, 
by the way, you and young Argyll had quite a hide- 
and-seek race the other night !" and when I looked my 
astonishment at this remark, he only laughed. " It's 
my profession, you know," was his only explanation. 



72 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER VI. 

TWO LINKS IN THE CHAIN. 

WE went up to Blankville that evening, arriving late. 
I confess that I felt a thrill as of cold steel, and ]>< 
over my shoulder as we walked up the hill from the 
depot; but my companion was guilty of no such weak- 
ness. He kept as sharp a lookout as the light of a set- 
ting moon would permit, but it was only with a view 
to making himself familiar with the premises. Wo 
passed the Argyll mansion on our way to my board in ;- 
place; it was too late to call; the lights were extin- 
guished, except the faint one always left burning in the 
hall, and in two or three of the chambers. A rush of 
emotion oppressed me, as I drew near it ; I would fain 
have laid my head against the pillars of tin- irateway 
and wept tears such as a man may shed without re- 
proach, when the woman he loves suffers. A growing 
anxiety possessed me to hear of Eleanor, no report of 
her mental or physical condition having reached me 
since that pieri-ing shriek had announced the part- 
ing of her heart-strings when the strain of linal sepa- 
ration came. I would have gone to the door a moment, 
to make inquiries, had I not inferred that a knock at 
that late hour must startle the family int.. nervous an- 
ticipations. The wan glimmer of the sinking moon 
truck under the branches of the silent trees, which 
stood about the dark mass of the stately mansion ; not 
a breath stirred the crisp foliage. I heard a leaf, which 
loosened itself and rustled downward to the sod. 

"It is a fine old place," remarked my companion, 
pausing because my own steps had come to a stand- 
still 



A BUSINESS-PROSPECT. 78 

I could not answer ; he drew my arm into his, and 
we went on. Mr. Burton was growing to me in the 
shape of a friend, instead of a detective-officer. 

That night I gave up my room to him, taking a hall- 
bedroom adjoining. After breakfast we went forth in- 
to the village, making our first call at the office. Mr. 
Argyll was there, looking thin and care-worn. He said 
that he was glad to have me back, for he felt unfit for 
business, and must let the mantle of labor drop upon 
my shoulders hereafter. 

There had been an implied understanding, although 
it had never been definitely agreed upon, that I was to 
become a partner in the law with my teacher, when I 
had been admitted to practice. He had no one asso- 
ciated with him in his large and lucrative business, and 
he was now getting of an age to feel like retiring from 
at least the drudgery of the profession. That he de- 
signed to offer me the place open for some candidate, I 
had not doubted, for he had said as much many times. 
This prospect was an unusually fair one for so young a 
person as myself; it had urged me to patient study, to 
eager, ambitious effort. For I rightly deemed that a 
respect for my habits of mental application and a faith 
in my as yet undeveloped talents, had decided Mr. 
Argyll to offer me the contemplated encouragement. 
This had been another reason for James' dislike of me. 
He could not look favorably upon one who had, as it 
were, supplanted him. Instead of seeing that the fault 
lay in himself, and applying the remedy, he pursued the 
false course of considering me as a rival and an inter- 
loper. He, also, was a student in the office, and that 
he was a year behind me in his studies, and that, if he 
ever became a partner, it would be as a third member 
of the firm, was owing solely to his habitual indolence, 
which gave him a distaste for the dry details of a law- 
yer's work. What he would have liked would be to 
4 



74 THE DEAD LETTER. 

have his examination shirked over, to be admitted on 
the strength of his uncle's reputation, :iml then to be 
employed only in making brilliant oratorical efforts be- 
fore the judge, jury and audience, after some one else 
had performed all the hard labor of the case, and placed 
his weapons ready at his hand. 

I f Mr. Argyll really intended to take the son of his 
old friend into the firm, instead of his nephew, it was 
simply on the prudent principles of business. I was to 
pass my examination on the first of November; this 
remark, then, which he made, as I observed how 
weary and unwell he looked, was not a surprise to 
me it came ouly as a confirmation of my expecta- 
tions. 

At that moment James entered the oflieo. There was 
a cloud on his brow, called up by his uncle's words ; 
he hardly took time to shake hands with me, before he 
said, 

"How is it, uncle, if you are worried and overworked, 
that you do not tell me? I should have been _'la<l to 
help you. But it seems I am of no possible account 
nowaday-." 

Mr. Argyll smiled at this outbreak, as he would at 
the vexation of a child. A father eould not lie kin. let- 
to a son than ho was to James; but to depend upon 
him for solid aid or comfort would be to lean upon a 
broken reed. The cloud upon the young man's face 
grew thunderous when he pereth.,1 Mr. Huitoii; al- 
though, if I had not been looking straight in hi> . 
I should not have noticed it, for it passed instantly, .ml 
he stepped forward -with frank cordiality, extending his 
band, and saying, 

\Ve did not know you were to come up. Indeed, 
we did not expect Richard back so soon. Has any thing 
transpired ?" 

" We hope that something will transpire, very soon," 



BROKEN-HEARTED. 75 

answered the detective. " You are very anxious, I see 
and no wonder." 

"No no wonder! "We are all of us perfectly ab- 
sorbed and, as for me, my heart bleeds for niy friends, 
Mr. Burton." 

" And your friends' hearts bleed for you." 

Mr. Burton had a peculiar voice, searching, though 
not loud ; I was talking with Mr. Argyll, and yet I 
heard this reply without listening for it; I did not com- 
prehend it, and indeed, I let it in at one ear and out at 
the other, for I was asking about Eleanor. 

" She is better than we hoped for," said the father, 
wiping the mist from his eyes which gathered at the 
mention of her name, " but, alas, Richard, that is not 
saying much. My girl never will be herself again. 
My pretty Eleanor will never be my sunshine any more. 
Not that her mind is shaken that remains only too 
acutely sensitive. But her heart is broken. I can see 
that broken, past mending. She has not left her bed 
since Henry was carried away ; the doctor assures me 
there is nothing dangerous about her illness only the 
natural weakness of the system after intense suffering, 
the same as if she had endured great physical pain. He 
says she will rally presently." 

"If I could take her burden upon myself, I would 
ask no greater boon," I said. 

My voice must have been very full of the feeling 
within me, for it made Mr. Argyll give me a wonder- 
ing look ; I think it was the first time he had a suspi- 
cion of the hopeless passion I had cherished for his 
daughter. 

" We must all bear our own troubles," he said. 
" Poor Richard, I fear you have your own, like the rest 
of us." 

When I again noticed what was passing between the 
other two, James was telling Mr. Burton, with great 



76 THE DEAD LETTER. 

animation, of some information which had been lodged 
with the authorities of the village. I became absorbed 
in it, of course. 

A respectable citizen of a town some thirty or forty 
miles beyond, on the railroad, hearing of the murder, 
had taken the trouble to come down to Blunkville and 
testify to some things which had fallen umler his ob- 
servation on the ni^ht of the murder. ]!< stated that 
he was a pa.-seii-jcr on the Saturd.i\ afternoon train 
from Xew York ; that the seat in front of hi> own, in 
the car, was occupied by a young gentleman, who, by 
tin- description since 'jiven, lie knew nui^t In- Henrv 
Morcland ; that, as there were but few people in that 
ear. he had given theinoiv attention to thr near him; 
that he was particularly attracted by the pr. 
appearance of the young gentleman, with whom : 
changed a few remarks with regard to the storm, and 
who informed him that he was going no further than 
Klankville. 

Al'ter \\e had been riding a while," said the witnr-s 
I do not jrhe .lames' words in telling it, but his own, 
as I afterward read them in the sworn testimony "I 
notic. in who sat on the oppoMU- side of the 

car. facing n-. His forehead was bent mi his hand, and 
he was looking out from umler his lingers, at the young 
man in front of me. It was his sinister expnv~--i.ni 
which compelled m- to notice him. His small, glitter- 
iiiLT. black eyes were fixed upon my neighbor with a, 
look which made me shudder. I smiled at myself for 
my own sensation said to myself it was none of my 
business that I was nervous yet, in spite of my at- 
tempts to be unconcerned, I was continually compelled 
to look across at the individual of whose serpent-gaze 
the young gentleman himself appeared totally uncon- 
scious. It' he had once met those eyes, I am certain ho 
would have been on his guard for I assi it, without 



A SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER. 77 

other proof than what afterward transpired, that there 
was murder in them, and that that person was Henry 
Moreland's murderer. I can not prove it but my con- 
viction is unalterable. I only wish, now, that I had 
yielded to my impulse to shake my unknown neighbor, 
and say to him ' See ! there is an enemy ! beware of 
him !' There was nothing but the man's look to justify 
such a proceeding, and of course I curbed my feel- 
ings. 

" The man was a common-looking person, dressed in 
dark clothes ; he wore a low-crowned felt hat, slouched 
down on his forehead ; I do not remember about his 
hair, but his eyes were black, his complexion sallow. 
I noticed a scar across the back of the hand which he 
held over his eyes,, is if it had sometime been cut 
across with a knife ; a . so ; "*>at he had a large ring, with 
a red stone in it, on '- s lit:tl ^nger. 

" When the cars ^ f to Pped at Blankville, this person 
arose and followed iKi^'y Moreland from the car. I 
saw him step off the platform behind him, which was 
the last I saw of either of them." 

It may be imagined with what a thrill of fearful in- 
terest we listened to this account, and the thousand 
conjectures to which it gave rise. 

" It can not be difficult," I exclaimed, "to find other 
witnesses to testify of this man." 

We were assured by James that every effort had been 
made to get some trace of him. No person answering 
to the description was a resident of the village, and no 
one could be heard of as having been seen in the vicin- 
ity. Not a solitary lounger about the depot, or the 
hotel close at hand, could recall that he had seen such 
a stranger leave the cars ; no such person had stopped 
at the hotel ; even the conductor of the train could not 
be certain of such a passenger, though he had a dim 
recollection of a rough fellow in the car with Mr. 



78 THE DEAD LETTER. 

Moreland he had not observed where he left the train 
thought his tick*-! was tor Albany. 

" But we do not despair of some evidence, yet," said 
Mr. Argyll. 

" The New York police, not being able to do any 
thing further here, have gone home," continued James. 
"If such a villain lurks in New York, he will be found. 
That scar on the hand is a good point for identifying 
him don't you think so, sir?" to Mr: Burton. 

" Well yes ! unless it was put on for the purpose. 
It may have been done in n-<l ocher, and washed ort' 
afterward. If the fellow was a practiced lian-1, a- the 
skill and precision of tlie blow would imply, lie will be 
up to all such tricks. If lie had a real sear, he would 
have worn gloves on such an CIT.HI 1." 

"You think so ?" and James dfrew a long breath, 
probably of discouragement at 1 .lenient of 

the c 

" I would like to <jo down to ' .- depot, and along the 
docks for an hour," continued Mr. Burton, %> if t 
nothing eUe to 1.,- done immediately." 

Jnincs politely insisted upon accompanying n^. 

M What the deuce did you br'm<; another of those de- 
tective- up here for;'" he a-krd me, xft<> rnc,\ at the 
lir-i opportunity. "We've had a surfeit of them 
e regular bores ! and this Kurrou.Jiv ,,, IJurlon, 
or whatever his name K i^ the most disagreeable of 
them all. A conceited fellow one of the kind I dis- 
like, naturally." 

You mi-iake his character. He is intelligent and a 
gentleman." 

" I wish you joy of his society," was the sneering 
reply. 

Nevertheless, James favored us with his company 
daring our morning's tour. One sole fact tin di t. , ti\. 
ascertained in the course of his two hours' work. A 



MUTE WITNESSES. 79 

fisherman had lost a small-boat during the storm of 
Saturday night. He had left it, fastened to its accus- 
tomed moorings, and, in the morning, found that the 
chain, which was old and rusty, had parted one of its 
links, probably by the extreme violence with which the 
wind had dashed the boat about. Mr. Burton had 
asked to see the remnant of the chain. It was still at- 
tached to the post around which it had been locked. 
An examination of the broken link showed that it was 
partly rusted away ; but there were also marks upon it, 
as if a knife or chisel might have been used. 

" I see my boy, Billy, a-tinkeriu' with it," said the 
fisherman. " Like as not he's been a-usin' of it to whit- 
tle on. That boy breaks more knives'n his neck's wuth. 
He's goin' on nine, now, and he's had six jack-knives in 
as many months." 

Mr. Burton stood, holding the chain in his hand, 
and looking up and down the river. His face glowed 
with a light which shone through from some inward 
fire. I, who had begun to watch his varying expres- 
sions with keen interest, saw that he was again becom- 
ing excited ; but not in the same way as on that first 
evening of our meeting, when he grew so leonine. 

He looked at the water and the sky, the fail 1 shores 
and the dull dock, as if these mute witnesses were tell- 
ing to him a tale which he read like a printed book. A 
few moments he stood thus in silence, his countenance 
illuminated by that wonderful intelligence. Then, say- 
ing that his researches were thixmgh with in this part 
of the village, we returned, almost in silence, to the of- 
fice ; for when this man was pondering the enigmas 
whose solution he was so certain to announce, sooner 
or later, he grew absorbed and taciturn. 

Mr. Argyll made us go home with him to dinner. I 
knew that I should not see Eleanor ; yet, even to be 
under the same roof with her, made me tremble. Mary, 



80 THE DEAD LETTER. 

who was constantly in attendance upon her sister, would 
not appear at the table. Slit- came down. i'<>r a moment, 
to greet me, and to thank me tor my poor cllbrts. The 
diar rliil'l had changed some, like the nM of us. She 
could not look like any thing but the rosebud which 
she was afresh and pure young creature of sixteen 
summers a rosebud drenched in de\v a little pale, 
with a quiver in her smile, and bright tears beading her 
eye-lashes, ready, at any moment, to' drop. It was 
touching to see one naturally so joyous, subdued by the 
shadow which had fallen over the house. Neither of us 
could say much; our lips trembled \\lien \\ e >p.-].. 
name; so, after a moment's holding my hand, while- the 
tears began to flow fast, Mary unclasped my fingers, 
and went up stairs. I saw .Mr. Hurton hide those blue- 
gray eyes of his in his handkerchief; my respect for 
him deepened as I felt that thovc eye-, sharp and pene- 
trating as they were, ucrc not too cold to warm with 
ft sudden mi-t at the vision he had beheld. 

" Ah !" murmured I to myself, " if he could see Elea- 
nor!" 

When dinner was over, Mr. Argyll went up to see 
his children, giving me permission to show the house 
and grounds to the detective. James went on the por- 
ti. to smoke a cigar. Mr. Uurton sat a short time in 
the library, taking an impression of it on his mind, \- 
amined the lock of the desk, and noticed the arrange- 
ment of the one window, \\hidi was a large bay-\\ indo\v 
opening to the floor and projecting over tin- lb.\\er- 
n which lay behind the house and bordcivd ihe 
la\\ n to the right. It was about three feet to the ground, 
ilthough quite accessible, as a mode of entrance, 
Jo any one compelled to that resource, the \\ indow WE8 
not ordinarily used as a mode of ingress or egress. I 
had Hometimes chased Mary, when she Was not SO old 

as now, and sent her flying through the open .:.-. muit. 



THE HANDKERCHIEF. 81 

into the mignonette and violets beneath, and I after ; 
but since we had both grown more sedate, such pi-anks 
were rare. 

We then went out upon the lawn. I took my com- 
panion to the tree beneath which I had stood, when that 
dark figure had approached, and passed me, to crouch 
beneath the window from which the death-candles 
shone. From this spot, the bay-window was not visi- 
ble, that being at the back of the house and this on the 
side. Mr. Burton looked carefully about him, walking 
all over the lawn, going up under the parlor windows, 
and thence pursuing his way into the garden and around 
to the bay-window. It was quite natural to search 
closely in this precinct for some mark or footsteps, some 
crushed flowers, or broken branches, or scratches upon 
the wall, left by the thief, if he or she had made his or 
her entrance at this spot. Going over the ground thus, 
inch by inch, I observed a bit of white lawn, soiled and 
weather-beaten, lying under a rose-bush a few feet from 
the window. I picked it up. It was a woman's hand- 
kerchief, of fine lawn, embroidered along the edge with 
a delicate running vine, and a spray of flowers at the 
corner. 

" One of the young ladies has dropped it, some time 
ago," I said, " or it has blown across from the kitchen 
grass-plot, where the linen is put out to dry." 

Then I examined the discolored article more closely, 
and, involved in the graceful twinings of the spray of 
flowers, I saw worked the initials " L. S." 

" Leesy Sullivan," said my companion, taking it from 
my hand. 

" It seems too dainty an article for her ownership," 
I said, at last, for, at first, I had been quite stupefied. 

"A woman's vanity will compass many things beyond 
her means. This thing she has embroidered with her 
own needle you remember, she is a proficient in the art." 



82 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" Yes, I remember. She may have lost it Sunday 
niirht, during that visit which I observed; and the wind 
has blown it over into this spot." 

" You forget that there has been no rain since that 
nielli. This handkerchief has been beaten into the 
grass and earth by a violent rain. A thorn upon this 
bush has pulled it from her pocket as she passed, and 
the rain has set its mark upon it, to be used as a toti- 
mony against her." 

" The evidence seems to conflict. She can not be a 
man and woman both." 

Why not ?" was the quiet reply. " There may be 
a principal and an accomplice. A woman is a safer ac- 
complice for a man than one of his own sex and vice 
versa." 

The lace which I had seen, in its despair, the lace of 
Leesy Sullivan, rose in my memory, full of pa->ion, 
marked in every soft yet impressive lineament with 
slumbering power " such a nature," I thought, "can 
be maddened into crime, but it will not con>ort with 
villa i, 

Mr. Hurt on put the handkerchief in the inside pocket 
of his coat, and we returned into the house, lie in- 
quired the name-; of the servanN, none <if whose initials 
Corresponded with thoM- we had found, nor could I re- 
call any lady visitors of the family to \\li.nii the hand- 
kerchief iniijht belong by virtue of ita inscription. 
There was not the shadow of a d.-ul.t hut that it had 
been the property of the M-\\ inu'-u'ii'I. Some errand, 
secret and unlawful, had brought her to these grounds, 
and under this window. We now considered it proper 
tu show the handkerchief to Mr. Argyll, and relate to 
him our ground* of supieion auMiti-l the L'irl. 
and .lames were admitted to the council. The former 
aid that nhe rcinemhcred Mi>s Sullivan ; that she hal 
been employed in the family, for a few days at a time, 



THE SERVANTS QUESTIONED. 83 

on several different occasions, but none of them recent. 
" We liked her sewing very much, and wanted to en- 
gage her for the next six weeks," she added, with a 
sigh, " but on inquiring for her, learned that she was 
now employed in New York." 

" She must, then, have been perfectly familiar with 
the arrangement of the house, and with the habits of 
the family ; as for instance, at what hour you dined. 
She might enter Avhile the family were at table, since, 
had she been surprised by the entrance of a servant, or 
other person, she could affect to have called on an er- 
rand, and to be waiting for the young ladies," remarked 
Mr. Burton. 

The servants were then summoned, one at a time, 
and questioned as to whether they had observed any 
suspicious persons whatever about the house or grounds 
within a week. They were, of course, in a national 
state of high excitement, and immediately upon a ques- 
tion being put to them, answered every other imaginary 
case in the world but that, blessed themselves, called 
on the Virgin Mary, gave an account of all the beggars 
as called at the kitchen last year and the year afore, 
cried abundantly, and gave no coherent information. 

" Ah, sure J" said Norah, the cook, " there was the 
blackin'-and-bluin' man come around last Wednesday, 
and I tuk a bottle of the blue for the clothes. It's a 
poor mimiry I have, sure, since I came across the say. 
Afore that I could recollect beyond any thing, and the 
praste used to praise my rading. I think it was the 
tossin' an' rollin' ov the ship upsot my brain. It was 
Saturday, it wur, and oh, Lordy, it is setting me all of 
a trimble a-thinkin' of that day, and I see a little yeller 
dog a-stickiu' his nose into the kitching door, which 
was open about half, and nays I, there/ s vagabonds 
' around str^nghv, I knew by the dog, and I wint and 
looked out, and sure as me name's Norah, there was an 



84 THE DEA.D LETTER. 

old lame man wid a stick a-prct hiding to look for rags 
an' bones in the alley to the stable, which I niver 
allows such about, as it's against the master's orthers, 
and I druv him off imniajetly and that, I think, Mas 
Saturday two weeks no\v, but I won't be sure ; nml I 
don't mind nobody else but the chany-wonlan, wid her 
basket, which I don't think it could have been her as 
done any thin' bad, for she's been round rig'ler, for a 
good while, and is a dacent-spoken body that I've had 
some dalin's wid myself. I sowld her my old plaid 
gown for the match-box of ebony that sits on the kitch- 
ing-mantcl now, and oh dear! but my heart's dead 
broke, sure ! Margaret and I daren't set in the kitehing 
of nights no more, unless Jim's there, an' I've woke up 
Bcr'aming two nights now oeh hone! and if I'.i 
any thing, I'd a told it Ion-; afore, which I wih I had, 
. d me, sir. It don't do no good a-cook- 
ing delicacies whieh nobody eats no longer I wish I 
had never eome to Amyrik\ . DC Mi-s Kleanor 

BO tuk down !" and having relieved herself of the sym- 
pathy which slie had been aching to express, without 
the Opportunity, -lie threw her apron over her head, 
and sobbed after the manner of her people. 

Margaret's testimony was no more to the point than 

it's. Mr. Burton let each one go on after her own 

.putting up \\ith the tedious circumlocution, in 

the hope of some kernel of wheat in the hii>hel of chatV. 

Artt-r a deluge of tears and intcrjcetions, Maggie did 
finally come out with a statement which arrested the 
attention of her li-tcii. 

" I've never seen none gawking about as didn't be- 
long here not a living sowl. The howly Virgin pre- 
vii't that iver I should see what Jim did it wasn't a 
human being at all, hut a wraith, and ho seen it that 
very night. He nivi-r told us of it, till the Tuesday 
night, as we sot talking about the funeral, and it 



A WKAITH. 85 

frightened us so, we niver slept a wink till morning. 
Poor Jim's worried with it, too ; he pretinds he isn't afraid 
of the livin' nor dead, but it's no shame to the best to 
stand in awe of the sperits, and I see he's backward 
about going about the place, alone, after dark, and no 
wonder ! Sure, he saw a ghost !" 

" What was it like ?" 

" Sure, you'd best call him, and let him describe it 
for hisself it'll make your blood run cold to think of 
sich things in a Christian family." 

Jim was summoned. His story, weeded out, was 
this: On Saturday evening, after tea, his mistress, 
Miss Eleanor, had asked him to go to the post-office 
for the evening mail. It was very dark and rainy. He 
lighted the lantern. As he went out the back gate, he 
stopped a minute and lifted his lantern to take a look 
about the premises, to see if there was any thing left 
out which ought to be taken in from the storm. As he 
waved the light about, he saw something in the flower- 
garden, about six feet from the bay-window. It had 
the appearance of a woman ; its face was white, its 
hair hung down on its shoulders ; it stood quite still in 
the rain, just as if the water was not coming down by 
bucketfuls. It had very large, bright eyes, which shone 
when the candle threw the light on them, as if they had 
been made of fire. He was so frightened that he let 
his lantern fall, which did not happen to extinguish the 
candle, but when he lifted it up again, the wraith had 
vanished. He felt very queer about it, at the time ; 
and next day, when the bad news came, he knew it was 
a warning. They often had such in the old country. 

We did not undeceive Jim as to the character of the 
phantom. With the assurance that it probably would 
not come again, since its mission had been accomplished, 
and a caution not to make the girls in the kitchen too 
nervous about it, we dismissed him. 



86 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER VII. 

ELEANOR. 

ONE week, another a third a fourth, passed by. Our 
village was as if it had never been shaken by :i tit-ive 
agitation. Already the tr.. M if it had not 

been, except to the household whose fairest flower it 
had blighted. People no longer looked over their shoul- 
ders as they walked ; the story now only served to en- 
I'm-n the history of the little place, when it was told to 
a stranger. 

Kvery limit; that human energy could accomplish had 
been done to track the murder to its origin : yel not, 
one step had been gained since \ve sat, that Wednesday 
afternoon, in the parlor, holding a council over the 
handkerchief. Yoim^and healthful as 1 was, I f,-lt my 
spirits breaking down under mv constant, unavailing 
ions. The time for mv examination came, which 
could not be unsuccessful, I had so lon^ been thorou^lily 
>>]. but I had \<>-l my keen interest in this era of 
my lite, while my ambition L MVW torpid. To excel in 
my prifi-*ioii had become. f,.r the time, <|iiite the seo- 
ondary object ,.f my life; my brain grew feverish \\ith 
the h:ira-s!ii,.|it. of restless project- ! of 

thwarteil ideas. There WO8 not one in the family group 
(always excepting that un-cen and cloistered Millerer) 
who betrayed the wear-and-tear of our trouble so much 
as I. James remarked once that I u:i- impi\<<l by 
losing some of my boyish ruddiness I was '-toning 
down," he said. On another occasion, with that Meph- 
istophili-s smile of his, lie obs.-r\ed that it mu-t lie that 
I was after the handsome rewards the sum-total would 
make a comfortable setting-out for a person just start- 
ing in the world. 



HOME-LIFE. 87 

I do not think he wished to quarrel with me ; he was 
always doubly pleasant after any such waspish sting ; 
he was naturally satirical, and he could not always curb 
his inclination to be so at my expense. 

In the mean time an impression grew upon me that 
he was watching me with what intent I had not yet 
decided. 

In all this time I had not seen Eleanor. She had re- 
covered from her illness, so as to be about her room, 
but had not yet joined the family at meals. I went fre- 
quently to the house ; it had been a second home to me 
ever since I left the haunts of my boyhood and the old 
red-brick mansion, with, the Grecian portico, whose mas- 
sive pillars were almost reflected in the waters of Seneca 
lake, so close to the shore did it stand and where my 
mother still resided, amidst the friends who had known 
her in the days of her happiness that is, of my father's 
life. 

With the same freedom as of old, I went and came 
to and from Mr. Argyll's. I was not apprehensive of 
intruding upon Eleanor, because she never left her 
apartments ; while Mary, gay young creature, troubled 
and grieved as she was, could not stay always in the 
shadow. At her age, the budding blooms of woman- 
hood require sunshine. She was lonely, and when she 
left her sister to the solitude which Eleanor preferred, 
she wanted company, she said. James was gloomy, 
and would not try to amuse her not that she wanted 
to be amused, but every thing was so sad, and she felt 
so timid, it was a relief to have any one to talk to, or 
even to look at. I felt very sorry for her. It became 
a part of my duty to bring her books, and sometimes 
to read them aloud, through the lengthening evenings ; 
at others to while away the time with a game of chess. 
The piano was abandoned out of respect for the mourn- 
er in the chamber above. Carols would rise to Mary's 



THE DEAD LETTER. 

lips, as they rise from a lark at sunrise, but she always 
broke them off, drowning them in sighs. Her elastic 
spirit constantly asserted it-elf, while the tender sym- 
pathy of a most warm, affectionate nature as const.-.ntly 
depressed it. She could not speak of Eleanor without 
tears ; and for this my heart blessed her. She did not 
know of the choking in my own throat which often pre- 
vented me from speaking, when I ought, perhaps, to be 
uttering words of help or comfort. 

James was always hovering about like a restless 
spirit. It had been one of his indolent habits to spend 
a great deal of time with the young ladies; and now 
he was forever in the house ; but so uneasy, so irritable 
as Mary said lie was not an agreeable eoinpaniou. 
lie would pick up a book in the library : in five min- 
utes he would throw it down, and walk twiee or thrice 
up and down the hall, out upon the pia/./a, back into 
the parlor, and stand looking out of the windows then 
to the library and take up another hook. He hail the 
air of one always listening always waiting. He had, 
too, a kind of haunted lo,,k. if my reader can imagine 
what that \*. I LTUc^cd that he \\a< listening ami 
waiting for Klean.r whom, like myself, he h : ,d not 
Men since the Sunday so memorable; but the other 
look I did not seek to explain. 

There had been a li^ht fall of snow. It seemed as if 
winter had come in \o\eniber. Hut in a few hours 
this aspect \anMied; the -n-.w melted like a dream ; 
the zenith was a deep, molten blue, tran-fu-ed with the 
pale sunshine, which is only seen in Indian summer ; :v 
tender mi>t circled the hori/.on with a /one of purple. 
I ciiuldiiot stay in theoflice that afternoon, so infinitely 
sad, so infinitely lovely. I put aside the I aw -papers 
which I had been arranging for a case in which I 
first to appear before a jury and make my maiden argu- 
ment. The air, soft as that of summer and scented 



THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE. 

with the indescribable perfume of perishing leaves, came 
to me through the open window, with a message call- 
ing me abroad ; I took up my hat, stepped out upon 
the pavement, and wandering along the avenue in the 
direction of the house, went in upon the lawn. I had 
thought to go out into the open country for a long 
walk ; but my heart drew me and held me here. The 
language of all beauty, and of infinity itself, is love. 
The divine melancholy of music, the deep tranquillity 
of summer noons, the softened splendor of autumn 
days, haunting one with ineffable joy and sadness 
what is the name of all this varying demonstration of 
beauty, but love ? 

I walked beneath the trees, slowly, my feet nestling 
among the thickly-strewn leaves, and pressing a faint 
aroma from the moist earth. To and fro for a long 
time I rambled, thinking no tangible thoughts, but my 
soul silently filling, all the time, like a fountain fed by 
secret springs. To the back of the lawn, extending 
around and behind the flower-garden, was a little ascent, 
covered by a grove of elms and maples, in the midst 
of which was a summer-house which had been a favor- 
ite resort of Eleanor's. Hither I finally bent my steps, 
and seating myself, looked musingly upon the lovely 
prospect around and beneath me. The rustic temple 
opened toward the river, which was visible from here, 
rolling in its blue splendor across the exquisite land- 
scape. There is a fascination in water w.hich will keep 
the eyes fixed upon it through hours of reverie ; I sat 
there, mindful of the near mountains, the purple mist, 
the white ships, the busy village, but gazing only at 
the blue ripples forever slipping away from the point 
of my observation. My spirit exhaled like the mist and 
ascended in aspiration. My grief aspired, and arose in 
passionate prayers to the white throne of the eternal 
justice it arose in tears, etherealized and drawn up by 



90 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the rays from the one great source and sun the spirit 
of Love. I prayed and wept for her. No thought of 

[' mingled with these emotions. 

Suddenly a slight fhill fell upon me. I started to per- 
ceive that the sun had set. A band of orange belted 
the west. As the sun dropped behind the hills the 
moon came up in the east. It seemed as if her silver 
light frosted what it touched ; the air grew sharp; a 
thin, white cloud spread itself over tin river. I hud 
sat there long enough, and I was forcing myself t. a 
consciousness of the fact, when I saw one coming 
through the flower-garden and approaching the' summer- 

My blood paused in my veins when 1 saw that it was 
Eleanor. The sunset yet lingered, and the cold moon- 
light shone full on her face. I remembered how I had 
seen her, that last time but on.-, glowing and flushing 
in triumphant beauty, attired with the most skill. 
jaetry of a young, beloved woman, who is glad of her 
charms because another pri/.cs them. 

Now she came alonir the loMMNM path, between the 
withered llow.-r-beds. clothed in deepest black, walking 
with a feeble step, one small white hand hoi. ling the 
gable shawl across her chest, a long crape vail thrown 
,T head, from which her face looked ,,ut, white 
and still. 

A |ang like that of death Iran-fixed me, as I | 
at her. Not one rose left in the garden of her young 
life! The ruin through which she walked was not RO 
comjih-te but this garden \\ ..ill. I -,!(' in the 

months of another spring while for her there was no 
Spring on this side of the _- 

A !y she threaded her way, with bent -a/e. thr..ugh 
the garden, out upon the hillside, and up to the little 
ru-tic temple in which she had spent so many happy 
hours with him. When she had reached the grassy 



SWEET UNSELFISHNESS. 91 

platform in front of it, she raised her eyes and swept a 
glance around upon the familiar scene. There were no 
tears in her blue eyes, and her lips did not quiver. It 
was not until she had encircled the horizon with that 
quiet, beamless look, that she perceived me. I rose to 
my feet, my expression only doing reverence to her sor- 
row, for I had no words. 

She held out her hand, and as I took it, she said with 
gentleness as if her sweetness must excuse the absence 
of her former smiles, 

" Are you well, Richard ? You look thin. Be care- 
ful of yourself is it not too chilly for you to be sitting 
here at this hour ?" 

I pressed her hand, and turned away, vainly endeav- 
oring to command my voice, /had changed! but it 
was like Eleanor to put herself aside and remember 
others. 

" Nay, do not go," she said, as she saw that I was 
leaving her out of fear of intruding upon her visit, " I 
shall remain here but a few moments, and I will lean 
upon your arm back to the house. I am not strong, 
and the walk up the hill has tired me. I wanted to see 
you, Richard. I thought some of coming down-stairs 
a little while this evening. I want to thank you." 

The words were just whispered, and she turned im- 
mediately and looked away at the river. I understood 
her well. She Avanted to thank me for the spirit which 
had prompted me in my earnest, though unsuccessful 
efforts. And coming down to the family-group a little 
while in the evening, that was for Mary's sake, and her 
poor father's. Her own light had expired, but she did 
not wish to darken the hearthstone any more than was 
unavoidable. She sunk down upon the seat I had va- 
cated, remaining motionless, looking upon the river and 
the sky. After a time, with a long, tremulous sigh, 
she arose to go. A gleam from the west fell upon a 



92 THE DEAD LETTER. 

single violet which, protected from the frost by the pro- 
jecting roof, smiled up at us, near the door of tin 4 sum- 
mer-house. With a wild kind of pa>-i.n breaking 
through her quiet, Eleanor stooped, gathered it. pr* 
it to her lips, and burst into tears it was her favorite 
flower Henry's favorite. 

It was agony to see her cry, yet better, perhaps, than 
such marble repose. She was too weak to bear this 
sudden shock alone ; she leaned upon 'my shoulder, 
sob which shook her frame echoed by me. ^ ! 
I am not ashamed to confe--- it ! When manhood is 
fresh and unsullied, it< tears are not wrung out in tlm-i; 
single drops of mortal BDgniah which the rock 
forth when time and the foot of the world have harden- 
ed it. I could still remember when I had kis>cd my 
mother, and wej>t my boyish troubles well upon her 
It, I should have been harder than the nether 
millstone, had I not wept tears with Kleanor then. 

I mastered myself in order to assist her to regain 
composure, for I was alarmed lest the violence of her 
emotion should break down the remnant of her Trail 
strength. She, too, struggled a^mM the storm, soon 
growing outwardly calm, and with the violet pi 
to her bosom with one hand, with the other she clung 
to my arm, and we returned to the house, where they 
were already looking for Kleanor. 

Under the full light of the hall-lamp we encountered 
James. It was his first meeting with his cousin as well 
as mine. He gave her a quick, penetrating look, held 
out his hand, his lips moved as if striving to form a 
greeting. It was evident that the change was greater 
than he expected; lie dropped his hand. Let.. re her 
fingers had touched it, and rushing past us through the 
open door, he closed it behind him, remaining out until 
long after tea. 

When he came in, Eleanor had retired to her chamber, 



GLOOM. 93 

and Mary brought him the cup of tea which she had 
kept hot for him. 

" You are a good girl, Mary," he said, drinking it 
hastily, as if to get rid of it. " I hope nobody will 
ever make you look like that ! I thought broken hearts 
were easily mended that gii-ls usually had theirs bro- 
ken three or four times, and patched them up again 
but I have changed my mind." 

That gloomy look, which Mary declared she dreaded, 
clouded his face again. His countenance was most var- 
iable ; nothing could excel it in glitter and brilliant color 
when he was in his pleasing mood, but when sullen or 
sad, it was sallow and lusterless. Thus it looked that 
evening. But I must close this chapter now and here 
it is consecrated to that meeting with the object of 
my sorrow and adoration, and I will not prolong it 
with the details of other events. 



94 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE HAUNTED GRAVE. 

WHEX I returned to my boarding-house th.it 
evening, I found a telegram awaiting me from Mr. Bur- 
ton, asking me to come down to the city in the morning. 
I went down by the earlie>t train, and, soon after, ringing 
the lell at the door of his private residence in Twenty- 
third street, a servant ushered me into the library, 
where I found the master of the house so absorbed in 
thought, as he sat before the grate with his eyes bent 
upon the glowing coals, that he did not observe my en- 
trance until I spoke his name. Springing to his feet, 
he shook me heartily by the hand ; we had already be- 
come warm personal frier, >1<. 

" You are early," he said, " but so much the better. 
We will have the more time for business." 

M Have you heard any thing?" was ray first ques- 
tion. 

\Vell, no. Don't hope that I have called you here 
to satisfy you with any positive ,li-<-.)\ ei ie>. The work 
goes on slowly. I was never so baffled but once bet'. <n- ; 
ami til. -n. .1- no\v. there was a woman in the case. A 
cunning woman will elude the very Prince of Lies, 
himself, to say nothing of honest men like us. She has 
been after the child." 

" She has ?" 

" Yes. And has taken it away with her. And now 
I know no more of her whereabouts than I did before. 
There! You must certainly feel like trusting your 
case to some sharper person to work up " he looked 
mi -I -titied as he said it. 

Before I go further I must explain to my reader just 



SHAME OB BLAME. 95 

how far the investigation into the acts and hiding-place 
of Leesy Sullivan had proceeded. Of course we had 
called upon her aunt in Blankville, and approached the 
question of the child with all due caution. She had 
answered us frankly enough, at first that Leesy had a 
cousin who lived in New York, whom she was much 
attached to, and who was dead, poor thing ! But the 
moment we intruded the infant into the conversation, 
she flew into a rage, asked if " we'd come there to in- 
sult a respectable widdy, as wasn't responsible for what 
others did ?" and wouldn't be coaxed or threatened into 
any further speech on the subject, fairly driving us out 
of the room and (I regret to add) down the stairs with 
the broomstick. As we could not summon her into court 
and compel her to answer, at that time, we were com- 
pelled to " let her alone." One thing, however, became 
apparent at the interview that there was shame or 
blame, or at least a family quarrel, connected with the 
child. 

After that, in New York, Mr. Burton ascertained 
that there had been a cousin, who had died, but wheth- 
er she had been married, and left a babe, or not, was 
still a matter of some doubt. 

He had spent over a week searching for Leesy Sul- 
livan, in the vicinity of Blankville, at every intermediate 
station between that and New York, and, throughout 
the city itself, assisted by scores of detectives, who all 
of them had her photograph, taken from a likeness 
which Mr. Burton had found in her deserted room at 
her boarding-place. This picture must have been taken 
more than a year previous, as it looked younger and 
happier ; the face was soft and round, the eye's melting 
with warmth and light, and the rich, dark hair dressed 
with evident care. Still, Leesy bore resemblance 
enough to her former self, to make her photograph an 
efficient aid. Yet not one trace of her had been chanced 



90 THE DEAD LKTTEH. 

upon since I, myself, had seen her fly away at the men- 
tion of the word which I had purposely uttered, and 
disappear over the wooded hill. "We h:ul nearly made 
up our minds that she had committed suicide ; we had 
searched the shore for miles in the vicinity of Mori-land 
villa, and had fired guns over the water ; but if she 
had hidden herself in those cold depths, she had done it 
most effectually. 

The gardener's wife, at the villa, had kept vigilant 
watch, as I had requested, but she had never any tiling 
to report the sewing-girl came no more to haunt tin- 
piazza or the summer-house. Finally, -Mr. UnMoii had 
given over active measures, relying simply upon the 
presence of the child in Now York, to bring back tin- 
protectress into his nets, if indeed she was still upon 
earth. He said rightly, that if she were concealed and 
had any knowledge of the etVorts made to dico\er her, 
the surest means of hastening her reappearance \\oiild 
be to apparently nTnic|uish all pursuit, lie had a per- 
son hired to watch the premise* of the nurse constant 1\ ; 
a person who took a room next to hers in the u -m -iiu-nt- 
housc where she resided, apparently employed in knit- 
ting children's fancy woolen garments, but really for 
the purpose of gi\ ing immediate notification should 
the guardian of tin- infant appear upon the scene. In 
the mean time he was kept informed of the sentiments 
Of the nurse, who had avowed her intention of throw- 
ing the babe upon the authorities, if it* board was not 
paid at the end of the month. " Maid enough," she 
avowed it was, "to get the praties for the mouths of 
her own chilther; and the little u'iil \\as growing 
large now. The milk wouldn't do at all, at all, )>ut 
she must have her praties and her bit bread wid the 
rest." 

In answer to these complaints, the wool-knitter had 
professed such an interest in the innocent little thing, 



LITTLE NORA. 97 

that, sooner than allow it to go to the alms-house, or 
to the orphan-asylum, or any other such place, she 
would take it to her own room, and share her portion 
with it, when the nurse's month was up, until it was 
certain that the aunt was not coming to see after it, she 
said. 

With this understanding between them, the two wo- 
men got along finely together ; little Nora, just tod- 
dling about, was a pretty child, and her aunt had not 
spared stitches in making up her clothes, which were 
of good material, and ornamented with lavish tucks 
and embroidery. She was often, for half a day at a 
time, in the room with the new tenant, when her nurse 
was out upon errands, or at work ; and the former 
sometimes took her out in her arms for a breath of air 
upon the better streets. Mr. Burton had seen little 
Nora several times ; he thought she resembled Miss 
Sullivan, though not strikingly. She had the same 
eyes, dark and bright. 

Two days before Mr. Burton telegraphed for me to 
come down to New York, Mrs. Barber, the knitting 
detective, was playing with the child in her own room. 
It was growing toward night, and the nurse was out 
getting her Saturday afternoon supplies at Washington 
Market ; she did not expect her back for at least an 
hour. Little Nora was in fine spirits, being delighted 
with a blue-and-Avhite hood which her friend had manu- 
factured for her curly head. As they frolicked to- 
gether, the door opened, a young woman came in, 
caught the child to her breast, kissed it, and cried. 
" An-nee an-nee," lisped the baby and Mrs. Barber, 
slipping out, with the excuse that she would go for the 
nurse, who was at a neighbor's, jumped into a car, and 
rode up to Twenty-third street. In half an hour Mr. 
Burton was at the tenement-house ; the nurse had not 
yet returned from market, and the bird had flown, 



98 THE DEAD LETTER. 

carrying the baby with her. He was sufficiently an- 
noyed at this denotement. In the arrangement made, 
the fact of the nurse being away had not been conu-m- 
plated; there was no one to keep on the track of the 
fugitive while the officer was notified. One of the 
children said that the lady had left some money for 
mother; there was, lying on the table, a sura which 
more than covered the arrears due, and a note of 
thanks. But the baby, with its little cloak and its new 
blue hood, had vanished. Word was dispatched to the 
various offices, and the night spent in looking lor the 
two ; but there is no place like a great city for eluding 
pursuit ; and up to the hour of my arrival at Mr. Bur- 
ton's he had learned nothing. 

All this had fretted the detective ; I could sec it, 
although he did not say as much. He who had brought 
hundreds of accomplished rogues to justice did not 
like to be foiled by a woman. Talking on the subject 
with me, as we sat before the fire in his library, with 
closed doors, he said the most terrible antagonist he 
had yet encountered had been a \vuinan that her will 
was a match for his own, yet he had broken with ease 
the spirits of the boldest men. 

" However," 1 In- a<l.i ->ullivan is n<>t a wo- 

man of that stamp. If */; has committed a crime, she 
has done it in a moment of ]>:I:-MM, ami iv:n.ir-r will 
kill her, though the vengeance of the law should i 
overtake her. But she is subtle and elusive. It is not 
reason that makes her cunning, but feeling. With man 
it would be reason ; and as I could follow the course 
of his argument, whichever path it took, I should soon 
overtake it. But a woman, working from a passion, 
either of hate or love, will sometimes come to tuch 
novel conclusions as to defy the sharpest guesses of the 
intellect. I should like, above all things, a quiet con- 
versation with that girl. And I will have it, some day." 



RETICENCE. 99 

The determination with which he avowed himself, 
showed that he had no idea of giving up the case. A 
few other of his observations I will repeat : 

He said that the blow which killed Henry Morel and 
was given by a professional murderer, a man, without 
conscience or remorse, probably a hireling. A woman 
may have tempted, persuaded, or paid him to do the 
deed ; if so, the guilt rested upon her in its awful 
weight; but no woman's hand, quivering with passion, 
had driven that steady and relentless blow. It was 
not given by the hand of jealousy it was too coldly 
calculated, too firmly executed no passion, no thrill 
of feeling about it. 

"Then you think," said I, "that Leesy Sullivan 
robbed the family whose happiness she was about to 
destroy, to pay some villain to commit the murder ?" 

" It looks like it," he answered, his eye dropping 
evasively. 

I felt that I was not fully in the detective's confi- 
dence ; there was something working powerfully in his 
mind, to which he gave me no clue ; but I had so much 
faith in him that I was not offended by his reticence. 
Anxious as I was, eager, curious if it suits to call 
such a devouring fire of longing as I felt, curiosity 
he must have known that I perceived his reservations ; 
if so, he had his own way of conducting matters, from 
which he could not diverge for my passing benefit. 
Twelve o'clock came, as we sat talking before the fire, 
which gave a genial air to the room, though almost 
unnecessary, the " squaw winter" of the previous morn- 
ing being followed by another balmy and sunlit day. 
Mr. Burton rung for lunch to be brought in where we 
were ; and while we sipped the stron'g coffee, and 
helped ourselves to the contents of the tray, the serv- 
ant being dismissed, my host made a proposition 
which had evidently been on bis mind all the morniug. 



100 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I was already so familiar with his personal surround- 
ings as to kno\v that he was a widower, with two 
children ; the eldest, a boy of fifteen, away at school ; 
the second, a girl of eleven, of delicate health, and 
educated at home, so far as she studied at all, by a day- 
governess. I had never seen this daughter Lem>;v, 
he called her but I could guess, without particular 
shrewdness, that his In-art was wrapped up in her. He 
could not mention her name without a glow coming 
into his face; her frail health appeared to In- the 
anxiety of his life. I could hear her, now, taking ;i 
singing-lesson in a dUtant apartment, and as her pure 
voice rose clear and high, mounting and mounting with 
airy steps the difficult scale, I listened delightedly, 
making a picture in my mind of the graceful littlo 
creature such a voice should belong to. 

Her father was listening, too, with a smile in Iii- e\ e, 
half forgetful of his coffee. Presently he said, in a 
low voice, speaking at lirst with some reluctance, 

"I sent for you to-day, more particularly to make 
you the confidential witm--* <!' an experiment than any 
tiling else. You hear my Lcnore singing now has 
she not a sweet voice ? I have told you how delicate 
her health is. I discovered, by chance, some two or 
three years since, that she had peculiar attril 
She is an excellent clairvoyant. When 1 fust di-f-v- 
il, I made UM- of her rare faculty to assist me 
in my more important labors; but I soon d'iM . 
that it told fearfully upon her health. It seemed 
to drain the slender stream of vitality nearly dry. Our 
physician told mo that I must desist, entirely, all ex- 
periments of the kind with her. He was peremptory 
about it, but he had only need to caution inc. I would 
sooner drop a year out of my shortening future than 
to take one grain from that increasing strength which 
I watch from day to day with deep solicitude. She is 



ME. BURTON'S TREASURE. 101 

my only girl, Mr. Bedfield, and the image of her de- 
parted mother. You must not wonder if I am foolish 
about my Lenore. For eighteen months I have not 
exercised my power over her to place her in the trance 
state, or whatever it is, in which, with the clue in her 
hand, she will unwind the path to more perplexed laby- 
rinths than those of the fair one's bower. And I tell 
you, solemnly, that if, by so doing, she could point 
out pots of gold, or the secrets of diamond mines, I 
would not risk her slightest welfare, by again exhaust- 
ing her recruiting energies. Nevertheless, so deeply 
am I interested in the tragedy to which you have 
called my attention so certain am I that I am on the 
eve of the solution of the mystery and such an act of 
justice and righteousness do I deem it that it should 
be exposed in its naked truth before those who have 
suffered from the crime that I have resolved to place 
Lenore once more in the clairvoyant state, for the pur- 
pose of ascertaining the hiding-place of Leesy Sullivan, 
and I have sent for you to witness the result." 

This announcement took away the remnant of my 
appetite. Mr. Burton rung to have the tray removed, 
and to bid the servant tell Miss Lenore, as soon as she 
had lunched, to come to the library. We had but a 
few minutes to wait. Presently we heard a light step ; 
her father cried, " Come in !" in answer to her knock, 
and a lovely child entered, greeting me with a mingled 
air of grace and timidity a vision of sweetness and 
beauty more perfect than I could have anticipated. 
Her golden hair waved about her slender throat, in 
glistening tendrils. Seldom do we see such hair, ex- 
cept upon the heads of infants soft, lustrous, fine, 
floating at will, and curled at the end in little shining 
rings. Her eyes were a celestial blue celestial, not 
only because of the pure heavenliness of their color, but 
because you could not look into them without thinking 



102 THE DEAD LETTER. 

of angels. Her complexion was the most exqnisito 
possible, fair, with a flush as of sunset-light on the 
checks too transparent for perfect health, showing the 
wandering of the delicate veins in the temples. Her 
blue dress, with its fluttering sash, and the little jacket 
of white cashmere which shielded her neck nnd anus, 
were all dainty, and in keeping with the wearer. 
did not have the serene air of a seraph, though she 
looked like one ; nor the listless manner of an invalid. 
She gave her father a most winning, childish smile, 
looking full of joy to think he was at home, and had 
sent for her. She was so every way charming that I 
held out my arms to kiss her, and she, with the instinct 
of children, who perceive who their real love: 
gave me a willing yet shy embrace. .Mr. IJnrlon looked 
pleased as he saw how satisfactory was the imp: 
m:.de by his Lenore. 

Placing her in a chair before him, he put a photo- 
graph of Miss Sullivan in her hand. 

" Father wants to put his little girl to sleep again/' 
he said, gently. 

An e\pre- ion of unwillingness just crossed he: 
but she smiled, instantly, looking up at him with the 
faith of affection which would have placed her lite in 
his keeping, and said, " Yes, papa," in assent. 

He made a few passes over her; when I saw their 
effect, I did not wonder that he shrunk from the ex- 
periment my surprise was rather that lie conld be in- 
diiccd to make it. under :;ny circumstances. The ' 
face became distorted as with pain; the little hand* 
twitched so did the lips and eyelids. I turned : 
not having fortitude to witness any thing so jarring to 
my sensibilities. When I looked again, her counten- 
ance had recovered its tranquillity ; the eyes were fast 
closed, but she appeared to ponder upon the picture 
which she held. 



A SPIRIT-JOURNEY. 103 

" Do you see the person now ?" 

" Yes, papa." 

" In what kind of a place is she ?" 

" She is in a small room ; it has two windows. There 
is no carpet on the floor. There is a bed and a table, a 
stove and some chairs. It is in the upper story of a 
large brick house, I do not know in what place." 

" What is she doing ?" 

" She is sitting near the back windoAV ; it looks out 
on the roofs of other houses ; she is holding a pretty 
little child on her lap." 

" She must be in the city," remarked Mr. Burton, 
aside ; " the large house and the congregated roofs 
would imply it. Can you not tell me the name of the 
street ?" 

" No, I can not see it. I was never in this place be- 
fore. I can see water, as I look out of the window. 
It appears like the bay ; and I see plenty of ships, but 
there is some green land across the water, besides dis- 
tant houses." 

" It must be somewhere in the suburbs, or in Brook- 
lyn. Are there no signs on the shops, which you can 
read, as you look out ?" 

" No, papa." 

" Well, go down the stairs, and out upon the street, 
and tell me the number of the house." 

" It is No. ," she said, after a few moments' silence. 

" Go along until you come to a corner, and read me 
the name of the street." 

" Court street," she answered, presently. 

"It is in Brooklyn," exclaimed the detective, tri- 
umphantly. " There is nothing now to prevent us going 
straight to the spot. Lenore, go back now, to the 
house ; tell us on which floor is this room, and how 
situated." 

Again there was silence while she retraced her steps. 



104 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" It is on the fourth floor, the first door to the left, 
as you reach the landing." 

Leuore began to look weary and exhausted ; the 
sweat broke out on her brow, and she panted as it' i'a- 
tigued with climbing flights of stairs. Her father, 
with a regretful air, wiped her forehead, kissing it ten- 
derly as he did so. A few more of those c:d>ali-tic 
touches, followed by the same painful contortions of 
those beautiful features, and Lenore was herself again. 
But she was pale and languid; she drooped against. 
her father's breast, as he held her in his arm.-, the color 
faded from her cheeks, too listless to smile in answer 
to his caresses. Placing her on the sofa, lie t"<>k (nun 
a nook in his secretary a bottle of old port, poured out 
a tiny glassful, and gave to her. The wine revived 
her almost in.-tantly ; the smiles and bloom came baek, 
though she still seemed exceedingly weary. 

She will be like a person exhausted by a long jour- 
ney, or great labor, for several days," said Mr. Hurt on, 
as I watched the child. " It cost me a pang to make 
such a demand upon her; I hope it will be the la-t 
linn at least until she is older and stronger than now." 

"I should think the application of electricity would 
restore some of the vitality which has been taken from 
her," I suggested. 

" I shall try it this evening," was his reply ; " in the 
mean time, if wo intend to benefit by the sacrifice of 
my little Lenore, let us lose no time. Something may 
occur to send the fugitive flying again. And n.u . my 
dear little girl, you must lie down :v while this after- 
noon, and bo careful of yourself. You shall dim \\ith 
us to-night, if you are not too tired, and we shall lring 
yon some flowers a bouquet from old John's con 
tory, s 

Committing his darling to the housekeeper's char-e, 
with many instructions and warnings, and a lingering 



VACANCY. 105 

look which betrayed his anxiety, Mr. Burton was soon 
ready, and we departed, taking a stage for Fulton 
Ferry a little after one o'clock. 

About an hour and a quarter brought us to the brick 
house on Court street, far out toward the suburbs, 
which had the number indicated upon it. No one 
questioned our coming, it being a tenement-house, and 
we ascended a long succession of stairs, until we came 
to the fourth floor, and stood before the door on the 
left-hand side. I trembled a little with excitement. 
My companion, laying his hand firmly on the knob, 
was arrested by finding the door locked. At this he 
knocked ; but there was no answer to his summons. 
Amid the assortment of keys which he carried with 
him, he found one to fit the lock ; in a moment the door 
stood open, and we entered to meet blank solitude ! 

The room had evidently been deserted but a short 
time, and by some one expecting to return. There 
was a fire covered down in the stove, and three or four 
potatoes in the oven to be baked for the humble supper. 
There was no trunk, no chest, no clothing in the room, 
only the scant furniture which Lenore had described, a 
few dishes in the cupboard, and some cooking utensils, 
which had been rented, probably, with the room. On 
the table were two things confirmatory of the occu- 
pants a bowl, containing the remains of a child's 
dinner of bread-and-milk, and a piece of embroidery 
a half-finished collar. 

At Mr. Burton's request I went down to the shop 
on the first floor, and inquired in what direction the 
young woman with the child had gone, and how long 
she had been out. 

" She went, maybe, half an hour ago ; she took the 
little girl out for a walk, I think. She told me she'd 
be back before supper, when she stopped to pay for a 
bit of coal, and to have it carried up." 
5* 



106 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I returned with this information. 

"I'm sorry, now, that we inquired," said the detect- 
ive; "that fellow will be sure to see her first, and 
tell her that she has had callers ; that will frighten her 
at once. I must go below, and keep my watch from 
there." 

" If you do not care for a second person to watch 
with you, I believe I will go on to Greenwood. We 
are so near it, now, and I would like to visit poor 
Henry's grave." 

li I do not need you at all now ; only, do not be ab- 
sent too long. When I meet this Leesy Sullivan, 
whom I have not yet seen, you remember, I want a 
long talk with her. The last object I have is to frighten 
her; I shall seek to soothe her instead. If I can once 
meet her face to face, and voice to voice, I l)elie\e I 
can tame the antelope, or the lioness, whichever she 
turns out to be. I do not think I shall have to coerce 
her not even if she is guilty. If she is guilty she 
will give herself up. I may even take her home to 
dinner with us," he added, with a smile. "Don't 
hhu liler, Mr. Ucd field; we often dine in company with 
murderers sometimes when we have only our friends 
and neighbors with UH. I a-.mv \->u I have often had 
that honor!" 

His grim humor was melancholy to me but who 
could wonder that a man of Mr. Urn ton's peculi 
perience should be touched with cynicism? Hesides, 
I felt that there was more in the inner meaning of his 
words than appeared upon their outer surface. I left 
him. sitting in a sheltered corner of the shop below, in 
a position where he could command the street MM! the 
entrance-hall without being himself observed, and mak- 
ing himself friendly with the Imsy little man behind 
the counter, of whom he had already purchased a pint 
of chestnut*. It would be as well that I should be 



THE SILENT CITY. 107 

out of the way. Miss Sullivan knew me, and might 
take alarm at some distant glimpse of me, while Mr. 
Burton's person must be unknown to her, unless she 
had been the better detective of the two, and marked 
him when he was ignorant of her vicinity. 

Stepping into a passing car, in a few minutes I had 
gone from the city of the living to the city of the dead. 
Beautiful and silent city ! There the costly and gleaming 
portals, raised at the entrance of those mansions, tell us 
the name and age of the inhabitants, but the inhabitants 
themselves we never behold. Knock as loud and long 
as we may at those marble doors, cry, entreat, implore, 
they hold themselves invisible. Nevermore are they 
" at home " to us. We, who once were never kept 
waiting, must go from the threshold now, without a 
word of welcome. City of the dead to which that 
city of the living must soon remove who is there that 
can walk thy silent streets without a pi-escience of the 
time when he, too, will take up his abode in thee for 
ever ? Strange city of solitude ! where thousands 
whose homes are ranged side by side, know not one 
the other, and give no greeting to the pale new-comers. 

With meditations like these, only far too solemn for 
words, I wandered through the lovely place, where, 
still-, summer seemed to linger, as if loth to quit the 
graves she beautified. With Eleanor and Henry in 
my heart, I turned in the direction of the family burial- 
plot, wishing that Eleanor were with me on that glo- 
rious day, that she might first behold his grave under 
such gentle auspices of light, foliage and flowers for 
I knew that she contemplated a pilgrimage to this 
spot, as soon as her strength would warrant the 
attempt. 

I approached the spot by a winding path ; the soft 
plash of a fountain sounded through a little thicket of 
evergreens, and I saw the gleam of the wide basin 



108 THE DEAD LETTER. 

into which it fell ; a solitary bird ponred forth a mourn- 
ful flood of lamentation from some high branch not far 
away. It required but little aid of fancy to hear in 
that " melodious madness" the cry of some broken 
In-art, haunting, in the form of this "bird, the place of 
the loved one's sleep. 

There were other wanderers than myself in the cem- 
etery ; a funeral train was coming through the gate as 
I passed in, and I met another within a few steps ; but 
in the secluded path where I now walked I was alone. 
With the slow steps of one who meditates sad things, 
I approached Henry's grave. Gliding away by another 
devious path, I saw a female figure. 

" It is some other mourner, whom I have disturbed 
from her vigil by some of these tombs," I thought 
" or, perchance, one who was passing further on before 
reaching the goal of her grief," and with this I dis- 
missed her from my mind, having had, at the best, 
only an indistinct glimpse of the woman, and the mo- 
mentary flutter of her garments as she passed beyond 
a group of tall shrubs and was lost to vii -w. 

The next moment I knelt by the sod which covered 
that youiiLC :m <l noble form. Do not think me extrava- 
gant in my emotions. I was not so only overpo\\ 
always, by intense sympathy with the sufferers by that 
calamity. I had so mused upon Eleanor's sorrow that 
I hail. a> it were, made it mine. I bowed my head, 
breathing a prayer for her, then leaning against the 
trunk of a tree whose leaves no longer afforded shade 
to the carefully-cultivated family inclosure, my eyes fell 
upon the grave. There were beautiful flowers failing 
upon it, which some friendly hand had laid there with- 
in a week or two. Ten or fifteen minutes I may have 
passed in reverie ; then, as I arose to depart, I took up 
a fading bud or two and a sprig of myrtle, placing 
them in my vest-pocket to give Eleanor on my return. 



WATCHING. 109 

As I stooped to gather them, I perceived the imprint 
of a child's foot, here and there, all about the grave a 
tiny imprint, in the fresh mold, as of some toddling babe 
whose little feet had hardly learned to steady themselves. 

There were one or two marks of a woman's slender 
shoe ; but it was the infant feet which impressed me. 
It flashed upon me what female figure it was which 
I had seen flitting away as I approached ; now that I 
recalled it, I even recognized the tall, slender form, 
with the slight stoop of the shoulders, of which I had 
obtained but a half-glance. I hastily pursued the path 
she had taken ; but my haste was behind hers by at 
least a quarter of an hour. 

I realized that I would only lose time by looking for 
her in those winding avenues, every one of which might 
be taking me from instead of toward the fugitives ; so 
I turned back to the gate and questioned the keeper if 
he had seen a tall young woman with a little child pass 
out in the last half-hour. He had seen several children 
and women go out in that time ; and as I could not tell 
how this particular one was dressed, I could not arouse 
his recollection to any certainty on the point. 

" She was probably carrying the child," I said ; " she 
had a consumptive look, and was sad-looking, though 
her face was doubtless hidden in her vail." 

" It's quite likely," he responded ; " mostly the wo- 
men that do come here look sad, and many of them 
keep their vails down. However, it's my impression 
there hasn't no child of that age been past here, lately. 
I noticed one going in about two o'clock, and if it's 
that one, she hasn't come out yet." 

So while Mr. Burton sat in the shop in Court street 
keeping watch, I sat at the gates of Greenwood ; bat 
no Leesy Sullivan came forth ; and when the gates 
were closed for the night, I was obliged to go away 
disappointed. 



110 THE DEAD LETTER. 

The girl began to grow some elusive phantom in my 
miiul. I could almost doubt that there was any such 
creature, with black, wild eyes and hectic cheeks, whom 
I was pursuing; whom I chanced upon in strange 
places, at unexpected times, but could never find when 
I sought her who seemed to blend herself in this un- 
warrantable way with the tragedy which wrung some 
other hearts. What had she to do with I li-m \ "> gr*fl '.' 
A feeling of dislike, of mortal aversion, grew upon 
me I could not pity her any more this dark spirit 
who, having perchance wrought this irremediable woe, 
could not now sink into the depths where she belonged, 
but must haunt and hover on the edges of ray trouble, 
fretting me to follow her, only to mock and elude. 

Before leaving the cemetery I offered two policemen 
a hundred dollars if they should succeed in detaining 
tl.e woman and child whose description I gave them, 
until word could be sent to the office of the det 
police; and I left them, with another on guard at the 
gates, perambulating the grounds, peering into vaults 
and ghostly places in search of her. When I got out 
at the house on Court street, I found my friend quite 
tired of eating chestnuts and talking to the little man 
behind tin- counter. 

"Well," said he, "the potatoes will be roasted to 
death In-fore their owner returns. We have been led 
another wild-goose chase.** 

" I have seen her," I answered. 

" \V 

" And lost her. I believe she is a little snaky, she 
ban such a slipp-ry way with her." 

" Tut ! tut ! so has a frightened deer ! But how did 
it happen?" 

I told him, and he was quite downcast at the unlucky 
fortune which had sent me to the cemetery at that par- 
ticular time. It was evident that she had seen me, and 



IN THE BOOM. Ill 

was afraid to return to this new retreat, for fear she 
was again tracked. 

" However," said he, " I'm confident we'll have her 
now before long. I must go home to-night to see my 
Lenore ; I promised her, and she will make herself sick 
sitting up." 

" Go ; and let me remain here. I will stay until it 
it is perfectly apparent that she does not expect to re- 
turn." 

" It will spoil the dinner. But, now that we have 
saci'iticed so much, a few hours more of inconven- 
ience " 

" Will be willingly endured. I will get some bread 
and cheese and a glass of beer of your friend, the penny- 
grocer, and remain at my post." 

"You need not stay later than twelve; which will 
bring you home about two, at the slow rate of midnight 
travel. I shall sit up for you. Au revoir" 

I changed my mind about supping at the grocer's as 
the twilight deepened into night. The dim light of the 
hall and staircase, part of them in total darkness, en- 
abled me to steal up to the deserted room unperceived 
by any one of the other inmates of the great building. 

Here I put fresh coal on the fire, and by the faint 
glow which soon came from the open front of the stove, 
I found a chair, and placing it so that it would be in the 
shadow upon the opening of the door, I seated myself 
to await the return of the occupants. The odor of 
roasting potatoes, given forth at the increased heat, 
admonished me that I had partaken of but a light lunch 
since an early and hasty breakfast ; drawing forth one 
from the oven, I made a frugal meal upon it, and then 
ordered my soul to patience. I sat long in the twilight 
of the room ; I could hear the bells of the city chiming 
the passing hours; the grocer and variety-storekeepers 
closing the shutters of their shops ; the shuffling feet 



112 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

of men coming home, to such homes as thcyhrul in the 
dreary building, until nearly all the noises of the street 
and house died away. 

Gazing on the fire, I wondered where that strange 
woman was keeping that little child through those- un- 
wholesome hours. Did she carry it in her arms while 
she hovered, like a ghost, amid the awful quiet of droop- 
ing willows and gleaming tombstones? Did she rock 
it to sleep on her breast, in the fearful shadow of some 
vault, with a row of coffins for company '! Or was she 
again fleeing over deserted fields, crouching in lonely 
places, fatigued, distressed, panting under tho weight 
of the innocent babe who slumbered on a guilty bosom, 
but driven still, on, on, by the la*h of a dreadful secret '.' 
I made wild |.i. -tares in tin.- sinking embers, a- 1 mnscd ; 
were I an artist I would reproduce them in all their 
lurid light and somber shadow ; but I am not. The 
close air of the place, increased in drowsiness by the 
gas from the open doors of the stove, the deep silence, 
and my own fatigue, after the varying journeys and 
excitements of the day, at last overcame me : 1 remem- 
ber hearing the town clock Strike eleven, and after that 
J HUM have slmnbcivd. 

As I slept, I continued my waking dreams ; I thought 
myself still gazing in the smoldering fire; that the 
sewing-girl came in without noise, sat down before it, 
and silently wept over the child who lay in her arms; 
that Le-iiore came out of the golden embers, with \\ imrs 
tipped with ineffable brightness, locking like an ang.-l, 
nud seemed to comfort the mourner, and finally tn,,k 
her by the hand, and passing me, so that I felt the mo- 
tion of the air swept by her wings and garmen 1 
her out through the door, which closed with a slight 
noise. 

At the noise made by the closing door, I awoke. As 
I gathered my confused senses about me, I was not 



NO SUCCESS. 113 

long in coming to the conclusion that I had, indeed, 
heard a sound and felt the air from an open door some 
one had been in the room. I looked at my watch by a 
match which I struck, for the fire had now entirely ex- 
pired. It was one o'clock. Vexed beyond words that 
I had slumbered, I rushed out into the empty passages, 
where, standing silent, I listened for any footstep. 
There was not the echo of a sound abroad. The halls 
were wrapped in darkness. Quietly and swiftly I felt 
my way down to the sti-eet ; not a soul to be seen in 
any direction. Yet 1 felt positive that Leesy Sullivan, 
creeping from her shelter, had returned to her room at 
that midnight hour, had found me there, sleeping, and 
had fled. 

Soon a car, which now ran only at intervals of half 
an hour, came along, and I gave up my watch for the 
night, mortified at the result. 

It was three o'clock when I reached Mr. Burton's 
door. He opened it before I could ring the bell. 

" No success ? I was afraid of it. You see I have 
kept up for you ; and now, since the night is so far 
spent, if you are not too worn-out, I wish you would 
come with me to a house not very far from here. I want 
to show you how some of the fast young men of New 
York spend the hours in which they ought to be in 
bed." 

" I am wide awake, and full of curiosity ; but how 
did you find your little daughter ?" 

" Drooping a little, but persisting that she was not 
ill nor tired, and delighted with the flowers." 

" Then you did not forget the bouquet ?" 

" No, I never like to disappoint Lenore." 

Locking the door behind us, we again descended to 
the deserted street. 



114 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THK SPIDER AND THE FLY. 

"Cora, said my cicerone, "we are already very 
late." 

A rapid walk of a few minutes brought us to the 
entrance of a handsome house, having the appearance 
of a private residence, and standing on a fashionable 
street 

" Why," said I, inclined to draw back, as lie ascended 
the steps, " you surely would not think of disturbing 
the people here at this hour of the night? There is 
not a light to be seen, even in the chambers." 

Mr. Burton's low laugh made me blush at my own 
" greenness." His ring at the bell was followed by a 
knock, which I was quick-witted enough, in spite of 
my verdancy, to perceive had something significant 
about it. The door immediately swung a little open, 
my friend said a few words which had the eflect to un- 
close the mysterious portals still wider, and we entered 
a modest hall, which a single gas-burner, half-turned 
off, dimly illuminated. The man-servant who admitted 
us was sable as ebony, muscular, much above the me- 
dium size, drc^M-d in a plain livery, and with manners 
M polished as his own shining skin nn African leopard, 
barring the spots, smooth and powerful. 

"Is Bagley still here?" asked my companion. 

"Yes, sir. In de library, jus' where you let" him." 

"Very well. You need not disturb him. I've 
brought my young friend in to introduce him to the 
house, in view of further acquaintance." 

The ebony man smiled respectfully, bowing for us to 
into the parlor. I thought I saw in that quiet 



A GAMBLING-HOUSE. 115 

smile a lurking ray of satisfaction a gloating, as it 
were, over my prospective intimacy at this respectable 
house. He had probably been usher to the maelstrom 
long enough to know that those whose feet were once 
caught in the slow, delightful waltz of the circling 
waters never withdrew them, after the circle grew nar- 
row and swift, and the rush of the whirlpool sounded 
up from the bottomless pit. 

We entered a suit of rooms in no manner differing 
from the parlors of a private house. They were richly 
furnished and well lighted, close inner blinds, hidden 
by heavy silk curtains, shutting in the light from the 
observation of the street. There were three rooms in 
this suit ; the two first were now deserted, though the 
odor of wine, and scented hair and handkerchiefs, 
showed that they had been recently occupied. In these 
two the chandeliers were partially obscured, but the 
third room was still brilliantly illuminated. We walked 
toward it. Magnificent curtains of amber silk depend- 
ed from the arch which separated it from the parlors. 
Only one of these curtains was now drawn back, the 
others trailing on the carpet, and closing the apartment 
from our observation. Mr. Burton placed me in the 
shadow of the curtains, where I could see myself un- 
seen. The room was furnished as a library, two of its 
walls being covered with books ; I particularly noticed 
a marble bust of Shakspeare, very fine. A severe, 
yet liberal,' taste marked the choice and arrangement 
of every thing. A painting of Tasso reading his 
poems to the Princess, hung between the two back 
windows. 

It was a well-arranged library, certainly ; yet the four 
occupants were engrossed in a study more fascinating 
than that of any of the books by which they were sur- 
rounded. If Mephistophiles could have stepped from 
his binding of blue and gold, and made the acquaintance 



116 THE DEAD LETTER. 

of the company, he would have been quite charmed. 
Two couples sat at two tables playing cards. All the 
other visitors to the establishment liaJ gone away, some 
of them to theft or suicide, perhaps, save those four, 
who still lingered, wrapped up in the dread enchant- 
ment of the hour. The two at the table I first glanced 
at, were both strangers to me ; at the second, I could 
not see the face of one of the players, whose li.uk was 
toward me; but the face of t IK- other was directly in 
front of me, and under the full light of the ehandelier. 
This person was James Argyll. My astonishment was 
profound. That I bad never fraterni/.cd with him, I 
considered partly my own fault there are person- so 
naturally antagonistic as to make real friendship be- 
tween them impossible and I had often blamed myself 
for our mutual coldness. But, with all my dislike of 
some of his qualities as, for instance, his indolent ac- 
ceptance of his uncle's bounty, which, in the eyei t a 
person of my disposition, took away hall his manliness 
with all my unfriendly aversion to him, I had never 
ed him of absolutely bad habits. 

I had to look twiee to a^nre myself of his identity. 
And having looked, I could n-'t lake away my eyes 
from the strange attraction of a countenance trans- 
formed by the excitement of the gamingtable. Hii 
dark complexion had blanched to a sallow pal. 
cheeks and lips were of the same color ; his nose seemed 
to have sharpened, and was drawn in about th- 
with a pinched look ; his (\l.:o\vs \\,-re very slightly 
contracted, but fixed, a- it' cut in marble, while under- 
neath them the lids were drawn together, HO that only 
a line of the cyo was visil,;. line, let ting out 

a single Steady ray from the lurid world within. The. 
lids appeared as if the eyeballs had shrunken in the 
intensity of their gaze. 

Silently the cards were dealt and played. It was 



RIGHTEOUS RAGE. 117 

evidently the closing game, upon which much depended 
how much, for James, I could only guess by the in- 
creasing pallor and absorption of his countenance. 

"I wish I could see his opponent's face," I whispered 
to my companion. 

" You would see nothing but the face of the devil 
coolly amusing himself. Bagley never gets excited. 
He has ruined a dozen young men already." 

^The last card was thrown down ; the two players 
arose simultaneously. 

" Well, Bagley," said James, with a desperate laugh, 
" you will have to wait for the money until I " 

" Marry the young lady," said the other ; " that is 
the agreement, I believe ; but don't consent to a long 
engagement." 

" I shall find some means to pay these last tAvo debts 
before that happy consummation, I hope. You shall 
hear from me within a month." 

" We will make a little memorandum of them," said 
his opponent ; and as they went together to a writing- 
desk, Mr. Burton drew me away. 

I could hardly breathe when we got into the street, 
I was so suffocated with rage at hearing the reference 
made by those two men, under that unholy roof, to the 
woman so revered and sacred in my thoughts. I was 
certain that Miss Argyll was the young lady whose 
fortune was to pay these " debts of honor," contracted 
in advance upon such security. If his strong hand had 
not silently withheld me, I do not know but I should 
have made a scene, which Avould have been as unwise 
as useless. I was thankful, afterward, that I was pre- 
vented, though I chafed under the restraint at the time. 
Neither of us spoke until we were in the house of my 
host, where a fire in the library awaited us. Before 
this we seated ourselves, neither of us feeling sleepy 
after our night's adventures. 



118 THB DEAD LETTER. 

"How did you know that Argyll was at that house? 
I had no idea that he blended coming to the city to- 
day," I said. 

He had no intention until he learned of your sudden 
departure. He came down in the next train, to see 
what you were about. He is uneasy about you, -Air. 
Redficld, didn't you know it? As he coukl ^certain 
nothing satisfactory about your doings, or mine, he had 
nothing better on his hands, this evening, than to look 
up his friend Bagley." 

" How do you know all this ?" 

The detective half smiled, his piercing eyes fixed re- 
flectively on the tire. 

"I should be poorly able to support my pretensions, 
if I could not keep the circle of my acquaintance under 
my observation. I was informed of hi> :irri\ al in town, 
upon my return from Brooklyn, and have known of his 
wheivaliiMits since. I could tell you what he had for 
Bnpper, if it would interest you." 

The uneasy feeling which I had several times expe- 
rienced in Mr. Burton's society, came over me a^ain. 
I spoke a little quickly : 

"I wonder if you have your secret agents spirits 
of the air, or clivtru-ity, they mi^ht almost seem to 
be hovering always on my steps." 

He laughed, hut not unpleasantly, looking me through 
with those steel-blue rays : 

" Would it trouble you to fancy yourself under sur- 
veillance ?" 

" I never liked fetters, of any kind. I yield my choice 
of will and action to nobody. However, if any 
finds satisfaction in playing the part of my shadow, I 
don't know that I shall suffer any restraint upon that 
account." 

" I don't think it would disturb you seriously," he 
aid. 



A QUESTION UNANSWERED. 119 

" No one likes to be watched, Mr. Burton." 

" We are all watched by the pure and penetrating 
eye of the All-seeing One, and if we are not fearful 
before Him, whom need we shrink from?" 

I looked up to see whether it was the secret-police- 
agent who was preaching to me, or whether my host, 
in his power of varying the outer manifestations of his 
character, had not dropped the mystic star for the robe 
of the minister ; he was gazing into the fire with a sad, 
absorbed expression, as if he saw before him a long 
procession of mortal crimes, walking in the night of 
earth, but, in reality, under the full brightness of infi- 
nite day. I had seen him before in these solemn, almost 
prophetic moods, brought on him by the revelation of 
some new sin, which seemed always in him to awaken 
regret, rather than the exultation of a detective bent 
on the successful results of his mission. So soft, so 
gentle he appeared then, I inwardly wondered that he 
had the sternness to inflict disgrace and exposure upon 
the "respectable" guilty which class of criminals he 
was almost exclusively employed with but I had only 
to reflect upon the admirable equipoise of his character, 
to realize that with him justice was what he loved best. 
For those who prowled about society in the garb of 
lambs and shepherd-dogs, seeking whom they might 
devour, and laying, perhaps, the proofs of guilt at the 
doors of the innocent, he had no mercy of the " let us 
alone" type. A little time we were silent ; the drop- 
ping of an ember from the grate startled us. 

" Why do you think that James watches me ? What 
does he watch me for ?" 

I asked this, going back to the surprise I had felt 
when he made the remark. 

" You will know soon enough." 

It was useless for me to press the question, since he 
did not wish to be explicit. 



120 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" I did not know," I continued, " I never dreamed, 
that James had bad associates in the city. I know 
that his uncle and cousins do not suspect it. It pains 
me more than I can express. What shall I do ? I have 
no influence over him. He dislikes me, and would take 
the most brotherly remonstrance as an insult." 

" I do not wish you, at present, to hint your diso-v- 
ery to him. As for your not suspecting his habits, 
those habits themselves are recent. L doubt if hi- hal 
ever ventured a dollar on cards three months :!_:>. He 
had some gay, even dissolute companions in the city, 
of whom the worst and most dangerous was Bagley. 
But he had not joined them in their worst c.xcesooa 
he- was only idle and fond of pleasure a moth flutter- 
ing around the flames. Now he has scorched his wimrs. 
He has not spent more than three- or four nights a-, he 
spent this ; and the only money he has lost has been to 
the person you saw him with to-ni^ht. Barley is one 
of the vampires who fatten on the characters and ]< 
of young men like James Argyll." 

"Then on^ht we not to make some earnest effort to 
save him before it is too late? Oh, Mr. Burton, you 
who arc wise and cxperieneed tell me what to do." 

44 Why do you feel so much interest in him? You 
do not like him." 

44 1 could not see the merest stranger go down toward 
destruction without stretching forth my hand. There 
is no great friendship between ns, it is true ; but James 
is nearly connected with the happiness and reputation 
of the family I honor most on earth. For its sake, I 
would make the utmost endeavor." 

"For the interests of justice, then, it is well that. I 
am not related to the Argylls by the personal ties which 
affect you. I will tell you one thing James does not 
gamble so much from weakness of will to resist tempt- 
ation, as he does to forget, for a time, under the 



ALWAYS KEEPING SOMETHING BACK. 121 

influence of the fascinating excitement, an anxiety which 
he carries about with him." 

" You're a close observer, Mr. Burton. James has, 
indeed, been deeply troubled lately. I have noticed 
the change in him in his appetite, complexion, manners, 
in a thousand trifles a change which grows upon him 
daily. He is gnawed upon by secret doubts now 
raised by hopes, now depressed by fears, until he is fit- 
ful and uncertain as a light carried in an autumn wind. 
But I can tell you that he is all wrong in indulging this 
vain hope, which creates the doubt. I know what it 
is, and how utterly without foundation. It is weakness, 
wickedness in him to allow a passion which ought only 
to ennoble him and teach him self-control, to chase him 
to such ruin as I saw to-night." 

" That is your way of viewing the matter, Mr. Red- 
field. We all see things according to the color of the 
spectacles we happen to wear. Then you think it is a 
growing certainty that Miss Argyll, even under her 
present relief from past vows, will never favor his suit, 
nor that of any man, which is driving her cousin to 
these reckless habits ?" 

I was half-offended with him for mentioning her name 
in that manner ; but I knew that mine was an extreme, 
if not a morbid sensitiveness, where she was concerned, 
and I swallowed my resentment, answering, 

" I fear it is." 

" That may explain his disquiet to you so be it." 

Still Mr. Burton was keeping something back from 
me always keeping something back. I did not feel 
at all sleepy. I was full of eager thought. I reviewed, 
with a lightning glance, all that he had ever said all 
James had recently done or said and, I swear, had it 
not been for the almost affectionate kindness of his gen- 
eral manner to me, and my belief in his candor, which 
would not allow him to play the part of a friend while 
6 



122 THE DEAD LETTEll. 

acting the part of an enemy, I should have felt th.it 
Mr. Burton suspected me of that appalling crime which 
I was so busily seeking to fix upon the head of a frail, 
frightened woman ! Again the idea, and not for the 
first time, crept through my veins, chilling me from 
head to foot. I looked him full in the eyes. If he had 
such a thought, I would pluck it out from behind that 
curtain of deception, and make him acknowledge it. 
If he had such a thought, James had introduced it to 
his mind. I knew that James had had some inten ie\vs 
with him, of which I was only eo^ni/.ant by casual ob- 
servations dropped by my host. How many more con- 
claves they may have held, was left to my imagination 
to conjecture. What was this man before me playing 
this double part for? a friend to each, but m-\er t<, 
both together. The reader may smile, and answer that 
it is the very calling and existence of a detective to 
play a double part; and that I ought not to be cha- 
grined to find him exercising his fine talents upon me. 
Perhaps James also had reason to fancy himself this 
man's confidant and friend, who was pla\in_r us, "no 
against the other, for purposes of his own. It was the 
thought that Mr. Burton, before whom more than any 
other person in this world, except my mother, I had 
been wiled to lay open my soul, could suspect mo of 
any hidden part in that dark tragedy, which chilled me 
to the marrow. 

Hut no! it was impossible! I saw it now in the 
frank and smiling eyes which met my searching and 
lengthy gaze. 

44 There!" he cried, gayly, " there is a ray of actual 
sunrise. The fire is out ; the room is chilly the morn- 
ing has come upon us. We have sat out the ni^ht, 
I; u-d ! Let me show you to your room; we will 
not breakfast until nine o'clock, and you can catch a 
couple of hours' repose in the mean time." He took 



SLEEPLESS. 123 

up a lamp, and we ascended the stairs. " Here is your 
chamber. Now, remember, I bid you sleep, and let 
that clock in your brain run down. It is bad for the 
young to think too deeply. Good morning." 

He passed on, as I closed the door of my chamber. 
His tone had been that of an elder friend, speaking to 
a young man whom he loved ; I had wronged hinv 
by that unpleasant idea which had shivered through 
me. 

Closed shutters and thick curtains kept out the broad- 
ening light of dawn ; yet I found it difficult to compose 
myself to sleep. That haunting shadow which had flit- 
ted from Henry's grave as I approached it yesterday 
the dream which I had in the little chamber, awaken- 
ing to the reality of the sewing-girl's escape I could 
not banish these any more than I could the discovery 
made in that house of sin, where the bloated spider of 
Play weaves his glittering net, and sits on the watch 
for the gay and brilliant victims who flutter into its 
meshes. 

One feeling I had, connected with that discovery, 
which I had not betrayed to Mr. Burton which I 
would not fairly acknowledge to my own soul which 
I quarreled with drove out but which persisted in 
returning to me now, banishing slumber from my eye- 
lids. When I had stood behind those silken curtains, 
and beheld James Argyll losing money in play, I had 
experienced a sensation of relief I might say of abso- 
lute gladness a sensation entirely apart from my sor- 
row at finding him in such society, with such habits. 
Why ? Ah, do not ask me ; I can not tell you yet. 
Do not wrong me by saying that it was triumph over 
the fall of my rival in Mr. Argyll's affections, in busi- 
ness, possibly, and in the regards of those two noble 
girls whose opinions we both prized so highly. Only 
do not accuse me of this most apparent reason for my 



124 THE DEAD LETTER. 

gladness, and I will abide my time in your judgment. 
But no ! I will confess this nuu-h to-night myself. 

It' this stealthy and living creature whom we two 
men were hunting from one hiding-place to another, 
whose wild face had been seen pressing toward the li- 
brary window on that night of nights, and whose hand- 
kerchief the very thorns of the roses had conspired to 
steal from her, and hold as a witness against her if 
this doubtful, eluding ereatuiv. Hitting darkly in the 
shadows of this tragedy, had not abstracted that money 
from Mr. Argyll's desk, I had dared to guess who 
might have taken it. Simply and solely not because I 
did not like him but because, logo back to- the 1'Viday 
before that fatal Saturday, I had been late in the par- 
lors. The girls were tinging and playing at the piano ; 
I left turning the music for them to go for a volume in 
the library which I desired to carry off with me to 
read in my room that night; I opened the door sud- 
denly, and startled James, who was leaning over that 
desk. 

" Have you seen my opera-glass?" said he. "I left 
it i m the desk here." 

I answered him that 1 had not M-CII it, got my book, 
and returned to the music, thinking no more of that 
trilling uccurrene which I never more should have 
recalled had it not been for a peculiar expression in 
James' face, which I \\as afterward li.nvd i,. remember 
against my will. Yet so little did I \\ Mi t<> wrong 
him, even in my secret thoughts, that when the iinesti- 
gations were taking place, I was convince,!, with all 
the others, that the unlawful visitor of the garden had, 
in some mannor r possessed herself of the money. It 
only came back to me as I watched James this night, 
in the gambling saloon, that, if he ever had been tempt- 
ed to rob from his uncle more than the unfailing gener- 
osity of that good gentleman allowed him, I was glad 



SOLICITUDE. 125 

that it was play which had tempted him to the wrong- 
ful act. This was the shadowy nature of my pleasure. 
Who has complete mastery of his thoughts ? Who 
does not sometimes find them evil, unwarrantable, un- 
comfortable, and to be ashamed of? 

From the perplexity of all these things I sunk into a 
slight slumber, from which I was almost immediately 
aroused by the tinkling of the breakfast-bell. I arose, 
dressed, and, upon descending to the library, was met 
by a servant, who ushered me at once into a cheer- 
ful apartment, where my host sat by the window, 
reading the morning paper, and where the table only 
waited my appearance to be graced by a -well-ordered 
meal. 

" Lenore usually presides over the tea-urn," said Mr. 
Burton, as we sat down. " We have a little affair 
which answers for two, and which is adapted to the 
strength of her little hands. It seems pleasantest so ; 
and we both like it but she has not arisen this morn- 
ing." 

" I hope she is not more unwell than usual," I said, 
with real solicitude. 

" To tell you the truth, she was not at all benefited 
by what occurred yesterday. She is nervous and ex- 
hausted ; I have been up to see her. I know that when 
the doctor comes to-day, he will guess what I have 
been about, and blame me. I mean it shall be the last 
time in which I experiment upon her." 

" I shall regret it, if she is really injured by it, de- 
spite my intense desire to learn what she revealed. Per- 
haps it was from our selfishness in making use of this 
exquisite instrument for purposes so earthly that we are 
punished by the fruitlessness of the results." 

Mr. Burton laughed. 

" Perhaps. Punishment, however, seldom appears 
fitly meted out, this side the Stygian river. My Lenore 



126 THB DKJLD LETTEE. 

will be better this afternoon ; and I have strong hopes 
that, with the light now before us, we shall secure 
our prize. If that woman escapes me now, I shall 
set her down as a lunatic only an insane person 
could have the consummate cunning to thwart me so 
long." 

" There never was one less insane," I said. " The 
impression which she made upon me was that of one in 
whom the emotions and intellect were both powerful. 
Her will and cunning are well-nigh a match for yours. 
You will have to look sharp." 

" It is easier to pursue than to evade pursuit. She 
has much the most difficult strategy to conceive and 
execute. I tell you, Mr. Rcdfield, I'm bound to see 
that woman. I shall be so pi<juc<l at my failure, as to 
go into a decline, if I'm di.-appointed.'' He M-erned 
two-thirds in earnest, through his jocular assertion. 

We. did not linger IOIILJ over the breakfast, being 
anxious to get back to Brooklyn. After we had with- 
drawn from the table, he gave me the paper to look 
over, while he ran up a moment to say something to 
his' daughter. While he was absent, the door-bell run'_r, 
and the servant showed a gentleman into the room 
where I was. 

" Well, really," were the first words I heard, " has 
Mr. Burton taken you for an apprentice, and do you 
lodge with your employer ?" 

It was James as usual, when addressing me, with 
the gay umile covering the sneer. He did not even ex- 
tend his hand, but stood looking at me a moment, with 
a sort of defiant menace, which ended with an i;< 
glance about the place. If he li;i<l been e.msei..-, 
my secret vi.-it to his haunts, he would have \\orn M.nie- 
thing such an expression ; I construed it that hi- 
less conscience made him suspicious of his frienl>. 

" I came down, unexpectedly, yesterday morning, at 



NO PEACE BETWEEN THESE TWO. 127 

his i-equest. We got some trace of Leesy Sullivan ; 
and I shall stay until we do something about it." 

" Indeed !" he seemed relieved, putting off his ugly 
look and condescending to be gentlemanly again. " Have 
you found out where the wretched creature has hidden 
herself? Upon my word, I think if Eleanor knew the 
case in all its bearings, it might be useful in keeping 
her from quite killing herself of grief." 

It was now my turn to be augry ; I turned upon him 
with a flushed face : ? 

" For God's sake, don't slander the dead, even by 
imputation, however slight. Whoever put Henry where 
he lies now, and for what purpose, this much I believe 
that no injustice nor sin of his own brought that high 
heart low. And the villain, I say the villain, who could . 
breathe such a whisper in Eleanor's ear would be base 
enough to to " 

" Speak out," smiled James, holding me with his 
softly glittering gaze. 

" I will say no more," I ended, abruptly, as I heard 
Mr. Burton's steps approaching. It was evident to me 
that there was to be no peace between us two. 

I watched my host while he greeted the new arrival ; 
I wished to satisfy myself if there was a difference in 
his manner of treating us which would justify my belief 
that Mr. Burton was not playing a part with me. He 
was courteous, affable, every thing that was desirable 
or to be expected in a gentleman receiving a friendly 
acquaintance that was all ; again I assured myself 
that it was only toward me that he displayed real liking 
and affection. But this he did not now display. His 
face had on its mask that conventional smile and 
polish, that air of polite interest, than which nothing 
is more impenetrable. It was because, in our intercourse 
alone together, Mr. Burton laid this mask aside, that 
I flattered myself I was his friend and confidant. 



128 THE DKAD LETTER. 

" Richard got the start of me," observed James, after 
the compliments of the day were over ; " I had not the 
least idea that he, was in to\vn. I came do\vn yesterday 
to buy myself an overcoat important bn>ine>s wasn't 
it ? and stayed over to the opera, last ni^lii bein-_: tin- 
opening of the new season. Did cither ofyou attend '; 
I did not see you, if then-. He tells me that ho 
Jell in the early morning train, before the one I took. 
Have you any information of importance, .Mr. Bur- 
ton ?" 

" We have seen Miss Sullivan." 

" Is it possible ? And have you really made up your 
mind that the poor thing is guilty ? If so, I hope you 
will not fail to have her arrested. I should like, very 
much indeed, to have the all'air sifted to the <i 

* Y. I, I suppose so. It is quite natural that you 
should take an interest in having it sifted, as yon -ay. 
I assure yon that if I ha\ e reason enough to wan-ant an 
indictment, I shall have one gotten out. In the mean 
time we mn-t lie cautious the intercuts involved arc 
too serious to be played with." 

" Certainly, they arc, indeed. And mile** that young 
woman i really the dreadful liein^' we l.clie\e her, we 
ought not to ruin her by open accusation. Still, I mu-t 
say she acts extremely like a guilty person." 

"She does, Mr. Ar-yll ; I sec but one explanation 
of her conduct -she is ) M -i -elf j><irl i'-<j>* f -he 

knows wh< 

"Quite likely. Indc. d. u.-. an not well think other- 
Did \oii say \ou had actually seen the ,'i;-l. Mr. 
Burto: 

"We sav : day thai i.-ld did." 

inquire the result ? or am I imt Mipp.'-ed to 

be sufficiently interested in the ca>e to ha\e any ri-ht 

to ask questions? If so, I be<: you, don't trouble yoiir- 

elves. There are doubtless others who km- dcc^r 



BUSINESS. 129 

and different reasons from mine, for being conspicuous 
in the matter." As James said this, he looked directly 
at me. " You know, Mr. Burton, I have intimated as 
much before ; and, if I am sometimes imprudent in my 
speech, you must know how hard it is for me to control 
myself always." 

I was conscious that I grew pale, as Mr. Burton 
glanced swiftly at me, I felt so certain that James 
meant something personal, yet so uncertain how to ac- 
cuse him of it, or to compel him to explain himself, 
when he would probably deny there was any thing to 
explain. 

" I don't think there's any one has a deeper interest 
in the matter than you, Mr. Argyll," said Mr. Burton, 
with a kind of smooth distinctness of tone which might 
seem to be impressive, or mean nothing, as the listener 
chose to understand it. " About seeing the girl, Red- 
field has not half so much to tell as I wish he had. lu 
fact, he let her slip through his fingers." 

A dry laugh was James' comment upon this avowal. 
Mr. Burton saw that we were inwardly chafing, ready, 
as it were, to spring upon each other ; he took up his 
hat and gloves. 

" Come, gentlemen, we have business on hand of too 
much importance to permit of ceremony. Mr. Argyll, 
I must excuse myself. But if you'll join us, we shall 
be glad of your aid and company. We are going over 
to Brooklyn, to seek for another glimpse of Leesy Sul- 
livan." 

James slightly started as Brooklyn was mentioned. 
He had no reason to suppose that any thing but courtesy 
prompted the invitation he received ; yet he did not 
hesitate to accept it. Whether from mere curiosity, or 
jealousy at being kept out of the detective's full con- 
fidence, or a desire to pry into my actions and motives, 
or a praiseworthy interest whatever it was prompted 
6* 



IbO THE DEAD LETTER. 

him, he kept with ns all day, expressing regret ns deep 
tis our own when another night came without any re- 
sults. Being belated, we took our supper in a saloon, 
as we had done uur dinner. 1 could not hut notice 
that Mr. Burton did not invite James to the hou-f to 
spend the night, nor converse with him at all ahout 
hi> daughter or his personal alfairs. 

Tiie next morning .lames returned home: but i re- 
niained in tin- city several days, all this time the guc^t 
of Mr. liurtoti, and boOOBkiog more attached to him 
and his beautiful child. Alter the fuM day, I. more 
recovered pretty rapidly from the ill etVcets of the 
tranee; I was, a- the l.idies say, "perfectly charmed" 
with her. A gayer, inure airy little sprite never ex- 
isted than she. when her health permitted her natural 
spirit t<> display itself. Her grace and playfulness W4N 
befitting her age childish in an eminent decree, \t 
poetized, as it were, by an ethereal spiritualitv, which 
was all her own. To hear her SIIILT would he to \vonder 
how such a depth and hi_rht and hreadth, such an in- 
iinity of inch-dy, could lie poured from so yoini'_ r and 
Blender a throat as I had often wondered, \\ hen ^a/in^ 
at the swelling breast of some little triumphant l.ird, 
when- was hidden ( he mechanism for all that marvelous 
ofum-ic. 

It is said that children know who .-ire their true 
liii-nd*. I do not think that "Hitting. faiiV' \< 
doubted for an instant that I u:i- hers. \\",. ;ickno\\ 1- 
cdged a mutual attraction, which it seemed to <;i\e her 
fatlier pleasure to observe. She was, to both of u<, a 
delight and a rest, to which we looked forward after 
tin- vexations and di>.ipp>intnicnls of the day vexa- 
tions and di-appointmi'iiN which incre.i-ed ii|io;. 
for every night we had the dissatisfied. MI of finding 
Rome slender thread of probability, whirh we had in- 
dustriously unraveled and follow.,], .iiher abruptly 



FALSE CLUES. 181 

broken off, leaving us standing, perplexed and foolish, 
or else leading to persons and purposes most irrelevant. 
I should dislike to say how many 'pale, dark-eyed young 
women, with pretty babies, made our unexpected ac- 
quaintance duringthe following week an acquaintance 
as brief as it was unsolicited on their part. 



132 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER X. 
"THE ANNIVBESAEY. 

I IIAVE said that I expected Mr. Argyll to offer mo ;\ 
partnership, now that I was prepared to lu^in my le^al 
career. In this I was not presumptuous, inasmuch as 
he had frequently and plainly hinted his intention. 
Such an arrangement would be a desirable one for me ; 
I appreciated its many advantages ; at the same time, 
I expected, by taking all the hanl work upon my self, 
and by the constant devotion of such talent as I had to 
the interests of the linn, to repay, as far as possible, 
my obligations to the senior member. 

When I returned from New York. I a]>|u -ared in court 
with a case which had chanced to be intrusted to me, 
perhaps from the inability of my rlicnt to employ an 
older and more expensive lawyer. I did \\ell with it, 
and was complimented by several of Mr. Argyll's fra- 
ternity upon my success in handling the case. Much 
to my surprise and mortification, Mr. Argyll's congrat- 
ulations were in constrained and studied terms. He 
had appeared to be more formal, less open in his manner 
of treating me, ever since my last visit to the city. At 
first I thought it my fancy, or caused by s.me tem- 
porary ill-health, or mental trouble, under which he 
might be laboring. Day by day the impression deep- 
ened upon me that his feelings toward me were not 
what they had been. The plainest proof I had of this 
was, that no offer of partnership was made. I was 
placed in a disagreeable Htuatic.n for one of my p'-oud 
temperament. My studio completed to the point where 
admission to practice had been granted, I had nothing 
to do but continue in his office, reading, reading away 



PRESCIENCE. 133 

not but that my time was most usefully employed 
thus, and not that I was in any great hurry to go into 
business, though my income was narrow enough, and I 
knew that my mother had pinched her domestic ar- 
rangements to afford me that but I began to feel like 
an intruder. My ostensible use of his books, office, 
and instructions was at an end ; I began to feel like a 
hanger-on. Yet I could not go away, or offer to asso- 
ciate myself with others, hastily. I felt that he ought 
either to put in execution his implied promise, or to in- 
form me that he had changed his plans, and I was free 
to try elsewhere. 

Can any invalid tell me why he feels a prescience of 
the storm in his aching bones and tingling nerves while 
the sun still shines in a cloudless sky, and not one hint 
on the outward face of nature tells of a change in the 
weather ? Neither can I explain the subtle influences 
which affected me, depressing me so deeply, and making 
me sensible of a change in that atmosphere of home 
which had brooded for me over the Argyll mansion. I 
had felt this first in the more business air of the office ; 
gradually, it seemed to me to be creeping over the 
household. Mary, that sweet child of impulse, too 
young to assume much dignity, and too truthful to dis- 
guise her innocent face in falsehood, who had clung to 
me in this affliction as a sister clings to an elder brother, 
awakening all my tenderest instincts of protection and 
indulgence this fair girl, doubly dear to me as the sis- 
ter of that other woman whom I adored, began to put 
on an air of reserve toward me. She was kind and 
gentle, but she no longer ran to me with all those pretty 
demands and complaints, those trifling confidences, 
so sweet because an evidence of trust and affection ; 
sometimes I caught her eyes fixed upon me in a sad, won- 
dering way, which puzzled and disconcerted me ; when 
I caught her glance, she would turn quickly, and blush. 



184 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I could not help believing, although I had no proof 
of it, that .James wa> covertly working to produce an 
impnsnon Bgftinst me in the family. His manner to- 
ward me had never been so friendly ; when we were 
alone together lie grew quite confidential, sometimes 
descending to small llatteries, and almost entirely neg- 
lecting the use of those little nettles of satire with 
which he once delighted in stinging me whciic\cr any 
one whom I esteemed was present. I could not pick a 
quarrel with him, had I desired it. Yet I could nut rid 
myself of the consciousness that he was undermining 
my footing in the house of those friends I loved best. 
In what manner, it was difficult for me to conjecture. 
If he slandered my habits or associations, nothing could 
be easier than for .Mr. Argyll to quietly ascertain, by 
inquiries unknown to myself, the truth of his state- 
ments ; JIM!,-,, to me would require that he should take 
that trouble before he cast off, as unworthy his further 
kindness, the son of his dead friend. I could think of 
but one matter which hi- could use to my prejudice; 
and in that my c,.n-.ci,-n,-.- arrived me loudly enough. 
I I to myself that he had told them of my love for 
KleaiHiu. He had torn that delicate and sacred 
from my heart, where it lay under the pitying light of 
God's eye alone discovered it through hate and jeal- 
ousy, which are next to lo\e in the keenness of their 
J erccptiolis and exposed it to iho-e from whom I had 
ino-t shrinkingly hidden it. K\en then, \\liy should 
they Maine me, or treat me coldly, for what I could 
not help, and for which I alone must sutler ? Certainly 
not for my presumption, since I had not presumed. ()no 
.till idea preyed upon me. It \\as, that, in order 
to rid himself of me forever, to drive me out from the 
friendsliipof those whom he wanted to himself, for hi* 
own 8el6sh aim-. is representing to them not 

only that I loved Eleanor, but that I was looking 



A GLOOMY DAT. 135 

fonvard to the future with hopes which mocked her pres- 
ent desolation. 

I can not describe the pain and humiliation this idea 
gave me. It* I could have discovered it, or in any way 
denied it, I should not have felt so hurt and helpless. 
As it was, I felt that my honor was being stabbed in 
the dark, without a chance to defend itself some se- 
cret enemy was wounding it, as some base assassin had 
planted that deadly wound in the heart of Henry More- 
land. 

In the mean time, the Christmas holidays were ap- 
proaching. It was a season of gloom and mourning, 
mocked by the merry preparations of happier people. 
On the twenty-third day of December came Eleanor's 
nineteenth birthday. It was to have been her wedding- 
day. A glorious winter morning dawned ; the sun 
shone in a sapphire sky ; it seemed as if every plant iu 
the conservatory put forth double bloom the japonicas, 
the white roses, were incomparable. I could not help 
but linger about the house. Eleanor kept herself in 
her room. If every word which refers to her were 
written in tears, it could not express the feelings with 
which we all were moved with the thought of her be- 
reavement. We moved about like people in dreams, 
silent and abstracted. The old housekeeper, when I 
met her on the stairs v was wiping her eyes with tho 
corner of her apron. Mr. Argyll, unquiet and pale, 
wandered from room to room. The office remained 
closed ; the front blinds of the house were shut it was 
like the day of the funeral. 

I went into the conservatory; there was sunshine 
there, and sweetness a bright luxuriance of beauty. 
It was more solemn to me than the darkened parlors. 
I plucked a white rose, holding it idly in my fingers. 
It was half-past eleven at twelve the ceremony should 
have been performed. Mary came in while I stood 



136 THE DEAD LETTER. 

there wrapped in emotion more than thought. Her 
were swollen with weeping, her hands trembled, 
and when she spoke, her lips quivered : 

"She has taken out all the wedding apparel, for the 
first time since that day. Mir is dreing herself. 
has put on the robe and vail; and now she has sent me 
down to make the bouquet. She wants some white 
flowers for her bosom. She stands before the minor, 
putting on everything as carefully as if poor Henry 
wen down-stairs. Oh, Richard," she cried, breaking 
down utterly in a burst of tears, and throwing herself 
into my anus, " it would break your heart to see her ! 
It almost kills me, but I must get the flowers. It is 
best to indulge her." 

" Yes, it is best," I answered, soothing her as best I 
could, when my own voice and hand* were so shaken. 
"I will help you. Don't keep her waiting." 

I took the scissors from her, cutting the fairest buds, 
the most perfect flowers, arranging them with care and 
skill. 

" I will tell you what she said," continued .Mary, MS 
I hastily made up the bouquet ; " she says that to-day 
they will lie married, the same as if Henry were On 
earth instead of in heaven ; that their vows shall bo 
consummated .-it the hour appointed, and that thereafter 
she shall hold her.-elf hi* wifejiM as surely as it' he had 
come in the body 'to fulfill his part of the contract. She 
has her prayer-book open at the marriage ceremony. 
She looks so sweet and calm, as beautiful as if she, too, 
were an angel with d. 1 1 \ -only so very white, 
so very solemn oh, dear, I cannot bear it !" and a^ain 
I had to compose her, wiping away her tear-, l.ef..iv I 
sent her tip with the bouquet. As she went out into 
the breakfast, or family-room, which opened into the 
conservatory, I saw James by the door, and I knew, 
by the expression of his face, that he had heard what 



AST OPEX AVOWAL. 137 

passed between us. Through a kind of alarm and vex- 
ation there was a flash of disdain, as if he wanted to 
say, what he dared not : 

" What a fool the girl is to cling to that dust and 
ashes ! Married, indeed ! She shall be the wife of 
some one besides a ghost, or I lose my guess." 

" What a crotchety idea !" he said, as he caught my 
eye. " I never thought Eleanor would be so whimsi- 
cal. She ought to have some one to exert a healthy in- 
fluence over her, or she will injure herself she surely 
will." 

" You ought to attempt to teach her a more practical 
view of life's misfortunes. I'm afraid, however, you'll 
find her a stupid pupil." 

His eye flashed into mine a triumphant gleam. 

" ' Perseverance conquers all obstacles,' the wise ones 
say ; and I'm a persevering man, you know, Richard." 

He took up his cap and lounged out into the garden. 
I felt a pinking at my heart as he thus openly avowed 
his hopes and expectations ; I could not entirely banish 
the heavy foreboding, even by recalling the image of 
the stricken girl, at that moment binding herself, in 
awful and mysterious companionship, with the spirit 
that waited for her across the portals of Time. I 
watched James pacing back and forth, with disquiet 
steps, through the frozen walks of the garden ; pres- 
ently he lit a cigar, and went out on the lawn, and from 
thence into the streets. His was one of those minds 
which do not like their own company when they are 
uneasy. How he managed to while away the day I do 
not know ; tome it was long and oppressive; Mary 
remained up stairs with her sister ; Mr. Argyll sat in 
the library with a book, which he held open but did not 
read. As the sun declined, I felt that a brisk walk in 
the cold air would be the best medicine for my droop- 
ing spirits it was my usual remedy. 



188 T1IE DEAD LETTEB. 

If I remember aright,! had not been in the direction 
of Moreland villa since that singular meeting I had 
there with the person who had since played so conspic- 
uous a part in our thoughts, if not in our eyes except 
twice, when I had gone with Mr. Burton through the 
vicinity, in hopes of tracing her from the point of her 
disappearance but to-day, I mechanically chose that 
road, led thither by the chain of association. Snow 
glistened on the hilltops, the shores of the river weiv 
skirted with ice, though its central current still rolled 
bluely between those crystal walls. It was sunset 
when I began my walk; before I readied the villa, the. 
pink flush was fading from the snowy summits; one 
large star, preternatnrally bright, hung <>\ cr the turrets 
of the lonely house, shining through the flush of twi- 
light ; gray shadows stretched over the 1 barren hillsides, 
and a cold steel-blue tinged the ice in the river. How 
desolate the place looked, stripped of ita summer gar- 
ments ! I leaned over the gate, while the night ap- 
proached, making a picture of how the villa would 
have appeared at this hour, hail that which had hap- 
pened not happened. It would ha\e been a Maze of 
light, full of flowers and feasting, and alive with happy 
human creatures. It had been the intention of the 
young couple to go immediately to their new home, 
after the wedding-breakfast, and to begin their house- 
keeping with a reception of their friend* tha 1 
ning. Instead of warmth and light, gay laughter and 
music, rolling carriages and prancing horses, feasting, 
congratulations, love, beauty and happiness, there was 
silence and desertion, oh, how appalling ! I could m>t 
bear the contrast between what was and what should 
have lcen. 

Ik-fore returning to the village I thought I would 
call upon the gardener's wife, Mrs. Scott, and impure 
if she had any tidings of Miss Sullivan ; though I 



A NERVOUS WOMAN. 139 

knew very well that if she had, she would have let me 
heard them without waiting for a visit from me. I had 
grown chilly, leaning so long over the gate, after my 
rapid walk, and the glow through the window of the 
little cottage standing at the back of the kitchen-gar- 
den, looked inviting. I made my way around to the 
gate at the back of the premises, and was soon knock- 
ing at the door. I had heard Mrs. Scott singing her 
baby to sleep as I approached the house ; but after I 
knocked there was silence, yet no one answered the 
summons. 

I knocked thrice, the last time rather imperatively, 
for I was chilly, and did not like Availing so long, when 
I knew I must be heard. At this the door was opened 
a little way, very cautiously, the mistress peering out 
suspiciously. 

" Laws ! Mr. Redfield, is it you ?" throwing the 
door wide open. " I beg your pardon for keeping you 
waiting. If I'd had any idea it was you, I shouldn't 
a' been skeered. But husband's gone to the village, 
and I was alone with the children, and when you knock- 
ed so sudden, rny heart came right up in my mouth. I 
didn't like to see who 'twas. Do come in. How cold 
'tis out to-night. You look real blue. Take a chair by 
the stove and warm yourself. I'm real ashamed I kept 
you standing so long. How is all the family, sir ?" 

" About as usual, Mrs. Scott. So you are cowardly 
when you are alone evenings, are you ? I've mistaken 
your character, then ; I've given you credit for being 
one of the strong-minded women." 

" Wai, the truth is," she said apologetically, " I never 
did used to be afraid of any thing, dead or alive. But, 
since young Mr. Henry was took away so sudden, I've 
been nervous and frightened like. I've never got over 
the shock. I'll holler right out, sometimes, in broad 
daylight, if any thing startles me, if it's only a door 



140 THE DEAD LETTER. 

slamming. Husband laughs at me and scolds me, but 
I can't help it." 

" Noli, uly's going to hurt yow, because another had 
evil happen to him." 

" I know that as well as anybody. It's not because 
I've reason to be afeard, that I am it's the shock, 
you see. There, there, Johnny, be still, will you ? I 
used to go all over the place the darkest night th:r 
was but now, reallv, I'm ashamed to tell you, I dasn't 
put my lace out after dark." 

" I should think it would be unpleasant, such a 
chronic state of fear," and I half-smiled through my 
own melancholy, at the woman's anxioii- 

"Onpleasant! I reckon it is mighty unpleasant. 
But there's good reason for it." 

" You just fccknOWtodged that then' wa- no v 
that it was faucx. Mr-. Scott." 

"You're goin' to trip me over my own words. Mr. 
Red field. It wts fancy, at lir>t, just nervousness ; but 
lately lately, as I -aid. there's been tin: 

"Whit things?" 

"I know you'll laugh :it me, -ir: and you won't 
half believe me, neither so I gMM I'd better not make 
a fool of my-,- If b.-forc Y..II. Hut if you. ,, r any other 
livin' (tcrson, had seen what I seen, and heanl what I 
heard, then you'd know what I know that's all!" 

She spoke with Mich evident earne.-tne-s, and I had 
hitherto fell so much respect for the sturdy -tren-jth 
and integrity of her New Kn._rl:ind character, that my 
curiosity was somewhat aroused. I thought ln-t to let 
her quiet herself, hov, , ling her to con- 

verse about the subject most on her mind, as I saw that 
she Still trembled from the fright I had L'ivcii her by 
my Midden knock at the door. 

How's the place get tin.,' on -iu.-e the winter weather 
et in? I suppose your husband had the plants housed 



MRS. SCOTT ALARMED. 141 

long ago. Has he been making any changes with the 
grounds ? I suppose not, since the family has so com- 
pletely desgrted the villa. I came out to-night to take 
a look at it. This is the twenty-third of December, do 
you remember ?" 

" I've been thinkin' of it all day, Mr. Redfield." 

" It's terrible to see the house standing there in si- 
lence and darkness, to-night. There seemed to me 
something ghostly about it I could not endure it. 
Have you been through the rooms lately ?" 

This last question I asked without any other object 
than to keep up the conversation ; she had started and. 
looked curiously at me, when I casually used the figur- 
ative expression of " ghostly," and now she shook her 
head. 

" I've not been through the house lately," she said. 
" I ought to go, I know it wants airin', and there's 
bedclothes and things in the closet wants lookin' after." 

" Then why do you not attend to it ?" 

" That's it," she answered, looking me uneasily in the 
face. 

"What?" 

" Well, sir, to tell you the truth, it's my opinion, and 
I know, laugh as you may " 

" I haven't laughed, Mrs. Scott." 

She arose, looked at her boy, now fast asleep in his 
cradle, went to the window, drew the little white cur- 
tain across the lower half, resumed her chair, glanced 
about the room, and was opening her lips to speak, 
when a slight rattling sound against the panes of glass, 
made her clasp her hands together and utter a cry. 

" What on earth was that ?" 

I did indeed now laugh at her pale face, answering, 
in some vexation, 

" It was the snow breaking from the eaves, and slip- 
ping down against the window." 



142 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" Oh !" drawing a long breath. " You are provoked 
at me, Mr. Redfield. If you knew all, you wouldn't 
be." 

"Well, tell me all, at onoe, then, and let me ju<L r '-." 

Again sin- irave a cautious look about, as if invisible 
guests might hear and not relish her revelation, drew 
her chair a little nearer mine, and said, impressively, 

" The house it haunted /" 

" Is that all ?" I asked, feeling quite relieved, for her 
manner had startled me in spite of myst-lf. 

" It's enough !" was the significant response. " To 
tell you flatly, sir, John's about concluded to write to 
Mr. Moreland, and give up the situation." 

"Your husband! is he so foolish, too? There are 
no such things as haunted housi-s, Mrs. Scott; and to 
give up a permanent and excellent home like this, upon 
any such idle fancy, seems to me very unv, i-< ." 

"Goodness knows I've liked the place," she cried, 
bursting into tears, " ami that we don't know what to 
turn to when we leave this, lint I'm worn out with it 
I can't stand it no longer ! You see how unsettled I 
am now." 

Unsettled enough, certainly, from tho usually com- 
posed and self-reliant woman in whose judgment I had 
placed considerable confidence. 

' You haven't told me any thing to prove your asser- 
tion. I don't believe in ghosts, I warn you; but IM 
like to hear your reasons for thinking tho villa has got 
one." 

" I always made fun of ghosts, myself, and so did 
John, until this happened. He won't own up now, 'cept 
that he's ready to leave the place, and won't go in with 
me in broad daylight, to 'tend to the rooms. So I 
know he's just as scairt as I am. And you know John's 
no coward with any thing he can see or handle 1 , ami u'-< 
no disgrace to a body to be shy of onearthly things. 



A MYSTERIOUS LIGHT. 143 

I'm a bold woman myself, but I ain't ready to face a 
spook." 

" What makes yon think the house is haunted?" 

" Plenty of tilings." 

" Please mention a few. I'm a lawyer, you know, 
and demand the proofs." 

" I've seen a curious light hovering over the roof of 
the house of nights." 

"Did your husband see it also?" 

" Yes, he did see it, night before last. He wouldn't 
believe till he see it. I've seen it seven or eight times 
myself." 

What was it like ?" 

" Oh, Lordy, I'm sure I can't tell exactly what it was 
like, when I never saw any thing of the kind before ; 
I suppose it's like them dead-lights that's been seen 
over graves. It's more like a bright shadow than an 
actual light you can see through it like air. It wan- 
ders about the roof, then stops over one pai'ticular 
place. It would make your flesh creep to see it, sir !" 

" I would like, above all things, to try it. Do you 
suppose, if we went out now, we should have the 
opportunity ?" 

" It's too early ; leastways, I've never seen it so early 
in the evenin'. The first time, my baby was sick, and 
I got up in the night to get him some drops, and as I 
looked out the window, there was the thing shinin'." 

' ; Is that all that makes you think the house haunted ?" 

" No, sir ; we've heard things curious sounds 
even in the daytime." 

" What were the sounds like ?" 

" I couldn't rightly explain 'em to you, sir. They 
were not human sounds." 

" Try and give me some idea of them." 

" They'd rise and fall, rise and fall not like singing, 
nor crying, nor talking a kind of wailing music, only 



144 THB DEAD LETTER. 

not like it, either that is, not like any thing I ever 
heard. It seems to conu> mostly from the family-room, 
back o' the library. John and me followed it up one 
evenin'. We went close "up on the porch, and put 
our ears to the shutters. We heard it plain. We 
was so frightened, we've been glad not to go near 
the house again. I don't feel as if I ever could." 

*' I think I know what it was," I -aid, half inclined 
to laugh. "The doors or sa-li. - ha-e been left open 
in such a way as to make a draught. It is the wind, 
singing through the crevices of the deserted nian>i>n. 
I, myself, have heard the wind make most unearthly 
music niuler such circumstances." 

" Twa'n't wind at all," said the gardener's wife, 
in an offended tone. 

" Perhaps persons have obtained access to the house 
that have no business there. They may deface the fur- 
niture, or carry off articles of value. You really ought 
to look to it, Mrs. Scott; it's part of your duty." 

" There's nobody got in I'm certain of that. V 
examined every door and window. There's not the 
lea^t sign of any human being about the prcmi.-e-. I 
tell you, Mr. Kedfield, it's spirits; and no wonder, con- 
sidering how poor Henry wa> took aua\." 

She said this solemnly, relapsing into moody silence. 

I felt quitO convinced that the imaginations of the 
pair, already awed and excited by the murder, had 
converted some trifling atmospheric or other phenomena, 
or some combination of circumstances, easily explained 
when the key to them was found, into the mystery of 
a haunted bouse. I was sorry, for two reasons : first, 
that they thought of leaving, when I knew that their 
departure would give trouble to Mr. Moreland. who 
had left the entire charge of the place to them for 
years, and at a time when he was too bowed with 
heavier cares to be vexed with these small matters ; 



AN APPOINTMENT. 145 

second, that the couple would be sure to spread the 
report through the village, causing gossip and conjecture, 
and exciting a prurient interest which would throng the 
vicinity with idle wonder-seekers. So I said, 

"I wish your husband was at home to-night. I 
must see him. It will not do for him to trouble Mr. 
Moreland at this time, by throwing up his situation. 
You would both of you be sorry and ashamed at such 
a movement, before many weeks, I'm convinced. What 
do you say to my coming out here fo-morrow, and to 
our going through the house together ? If there is any 
thing in it which ought not to be, we will turn it out. 
I will stay until you have aired the house and looked 
at the clothing ; then you can lock it up, and leave it 
for a few weeks without the necessity of going through 
it." 

" Well, Mr. Redfield, if you're willin' to do it, I 
ought to be ashamed to hang behind. I'll do it, of 
course, and be thankful to you ; for my conscience hain't 
been easy, lettin' them things go so. I'm right glad 
you happened out." 

" And tell your husband, please, not to say any thing 
about this matter to others. It will make it unpleasant 
for the friends." 

" I did tell him not to. He ain't said nothin' yet, 
I'm sure. It's the last thing we'd be willin' to do, 
make any more trouble for them that has too much 
now, and that has always been kind to us. Must you 
go, sir ?" 

" Yes ; I'll say good-night, Mrs. Scott. You may 
expect me in the morning, a little before noon. By 
the way, have you seen or heard any thing of Miss 
Sullivan ?" 

" Not the least thing. She's kept clear of here 
since that day you found her here. So she's run 
away, entirely, has she ? Well, well, well I never ! 



146 THE DEAD LETTER. 

I declare, I turn these things over in my brain, some 
days, till my head gets dizzy." 

"So does mine, and my heart sick. Good-ni^ht, 
ma'am." 

" Good-night, and good luck to you, this dark night." 

She waited to see me through the gate, which led 
by a little lane past the kitchen-garden, and thence by 
a private road along down into the main one. As I 
passed the gate into the lawn, on my way out, I paused 
perhaps half an hour, in the hope of hearing or seeing 
the marvels of which the woman had spoken. There 
was no mystic light, blue or yellow, playing lambent ly 
over the roof; no sound, sinking and ri.-ing, came 
wildly on the starlit air ; all was profound silence and 
darkness and coldness like that of the gra\ e. 

My half-contemptuous pity of the state of mind into 
which the gardener's wife had worked herself, gave 
place to deeper emotions ; I turned away, almost run- 
ning along the smooth, hard-frozen road whose course 
was clearly discernible in tin- winter .starlight. 1 met 
the gardener going home, but did not stop to sju-i.k 
with him went directly to my lodgings. The fire 
was out in my room, and I crept into bed, forgetting 
that I had gone without my u-a. 

True to my promise, I went the next day to the villa. 
Mrs. Scott brought tin.- keys, I unlocked the doors, ami 
together we entered the long-vacant place. There is 
always something imp: might say, "ghostly," 

about a deserted building. When you enter into it, 
you feel the influence of those who wen- last within it, 
as if some portion of them lingered in the old locality. 
I confess that I felt an almost superstitious awe and 
dread, as I stepped over the threshold which I had last 
crowed with him. H.w jyful, how full of young and 
princely life, hu had then been, his fare lit up, as ft 
man's face lights up when he attends upon the woman 



IN THE HOUSE. 147 

he loves and expects soon to make his own ! He was 
leading Eleanor to a carnage ; they had been talking 
about the improvements they were going to make in 
the house. How every look and tone came back to 
me ! With a silent shudder, I stepped into the hall, 
which had that moldy smell of confined air belonging 
to a closed dwelling. I hastened to throw open the 
shutters. When I unclosed a door, I flung it wide, 
stepping quickly in, and raising the windows, so as to 
have the sunlight before looking much about. I had 
to do it all, for my companion kept close to me, never 
stirring from my elbow. I went into every room on 
every floor, from the kitchen to the garret. Into the 
latter I only glanced, as Mrs. Scott said there was no- 
thing up there which she wanted, or which required 
attention. It was a loft, rough-floored, of comfortable 
hight, with a window at the gable end. The roof 
ran up sharply in the center, the villa being built in 
the Gothic style. There was such a collection of rub- 
bish in it as is usual to such places broken-down fur- 
niture, worn-out trunks, a pile of mattresses in a 
corner, over which a blanket had been thrown to keep 
them from the dust, some clothing depending from a 
line, and three or four barrels. Mrs. Scott was standing 
at the foot of the ladder, which led up into the attic 
out of a small room, or closet, used for storing pur- 
poses. I saw she was uneasy at having me even that 
far from her, and after a brief survey of the garret, I 
assured her there were no ghosts there, and de- 
scended. 

" Help yourself to some of them apples," said the 
woman, pointing to some boxes and barrels in the room 
where we now stood. " They're winter pippins. John's 
going to send them into the city, to the family, in a 
week or two. We've permission to keep 'em here, be- 
cause it's dry and cool, and the closet being in the 



148 THE DEAD LETTER. 

middle of the house, it don't freeze. It's a good place 
for fruit. Hark ! What was that ?" 

" It was a cat," said I, as I put a couple of 
the apples in my overcoat pocket. " It sounded like 
a cat in the garret. If we shut it up there, it'll 
starve." 

I went up the ladder again, looking carefully about 
the attic, and calling coaxingly to the animal, but no 
cat showed itself, and I came down," Haying it must 
have been in one of the lower rooms, and had probably 
run in since we opened the doors. 

" It sartingly sounded overhead," persisted my com- 
panion, looking nervous, and keeping closer to me than 
ever. 

I had heard the noise, but would not have undertaken 
to say whether it came from above or below. 

" If that is the material she makes ghosts of, I'm 
not surprised that she has a full supply," I thought. 

In going out, the woman was careful to close the 
door, and I could see her stealing n>\i-rt glances into 
every corner, as we passed on, as if she expected, mo- 
mently, t> be confronted by some imuelcome appar- 
ition, there in the broad light of day. Tlu-iv were no 
of any intruders ha\in^ made free with the 
house. The clothes and china closets were undisturbed, 
and the bureaus the same. 

"This was Harry's room; lie liked it because it had 
the best view of the river," said Mrs. Scott, as we 
paused before a chamlK-r on the second tloor. 

We both hesitated ; her apron was at her eyes, and 
my own throat swelled suddenly : reverently I opened 
the door, and stepped within, followed by the ], 
keeper. As I raised the window, and flung back the 
shutter, she gave a scream. I was really startled. 
Turning quickly, I saw her with her hands thrown up, 
an expression of terror upon her face. 



A GOOD SPIRIT. 149 

" I told you the house was haunted," she murmured, 
retreating backward toward the door. 

" What do you see ?" I asked, glancing about for 
the cause of her alarm. 

" This room," she gasped " it was his and he 
comes here still. I know it !" 

" What makes you think so ? Has it been disturbed ? 
If it has, rest assured it has been by the living, not the 
dead." 

" I wish I thought so," she said, solemnly. " It can 
not be. No other part of the house is in the least dis- 
turbed. No one has had admission to it it is impos- 
sible" ; not a crack, not a cranny, by which any thing 
but a spirit could have got in. Harry's been here, Mr. 
Redfield ; you can't convince me different." 

" And if he has," I said, calmly, for I saw that she 
was much agitated, " are you any more afraid of him 
now than you were when he was in the body? You 
loved him then ; think you he will harm you now ? 
Rather you ought to be glad, since you believe in 
ghosts, that it is a good spirit which haunts these prem- 
ises the innocent spirit of the murdered, not the 
guilty one of the murderer." 

" I know it," she said. " I'm not afraid I don't 
think I could be really afraid of Henry's ghost, even if 
I should see it ; but it's so awful, isn't it ?" 

" Not to me, at all. If such things were permitted, 
I should like to meet this spiritual visitant, and ask 
him the one question if, indeed, he could answer it. 
I should like to have him point out the guilty. If his 
hand could reach out from the spiritual world, and 
stretch a blasting finger toward his murderer, that 
would be awful to the accursed one, but it would be 
welcome to me. But what makes you think Henry 
has been here ?" 

She pointed to the bed ; there was a pressure upon 



150 THE DEAD LETTER. 

it, as if some light shnpe had lain there just the faint- 
est indentation of a head on one of the pillows; from 
thence she pointed to a little writin^-taMe, between the 
windows, on which a book lay open, and where there 
were some papers and engravings ; then to a pair of 
slippers standing on the carpet at the head of the bed. 
The room was a delightful one, furnished with blue 
ami white Henry's favorite colors. Two or tin* 
quisite little pictures hung on the walls, and not tin- 
slightest toy occupied a niche in any place but spoke 
of the taste and refinement which had chosen it. From 
the two windows, the vil-w of the river Mowing amidst 
the hills, and the lovely country spreading far away, 
was such as would satisfy the eye of a poet, turned 
from the pa<_je before him on the little writing-table, to 
rest upon the fairer page of nature. 

"I came into this room the day of the funeral," said 
the housekeeper, with a trembling \ -oice. " and I sot all 
to rights, as if the master was coming back the next 
day. Hut little I thought he would ivilly come ! I 
spread that bed as smooth as paper: I put on fresh 
slips on the pillows, and sot 'em up without a dent or 
wrinkle in 'em; I put his slippers with their t 
the wall, and now they're standin' as he always left 
'em when he took 'em off. Them papers has been 
Stirred, and he's been readin' in that book. She gave 
him that, and it was a fa\orite \\ith him; I've often 
seen him with it in his hand. You may sh.-ike your 
head. .Mr. Uedtield, but / ki,vir Henry's been back hen- 
in his room." 

"If any thing in this room has ln-.-n disturbed, rest 
assured there's been some living intruder here. A spirit 
would have had no need of slipper-, and would have 
made no impression on your smooth bed." 

" You can talk your big words, for you are an li- 
cated man, Mr. Redfield, but you can't convince me 



WHAT WAS IT? 151 

against ray own persuasion. It's been no human being 
has mussed that spread why, it's hardly wrinkled 
you can just see it's been laid on, and that's all. Be- 
sides, how did they get in ? Can you tell me that ? 
Through the keyhole, niebbe, and went out the same 
way !" 

Her voice was growing sharp and a little sarcastic. 
I saw that it was in vain to try to disabuse her mind 
of its impression while she was in her present excited 
state. And, indeed, I had no worthy argument to 
offer. To all appearance the rest of the house had 
been undisturbed ; there was not a broken fastening, a 
displaced bar of any kind, and nothing missing. It 
would seem as if nothing weightier than a shadow had 
stirred the pillow, and moved about the room. As 
long as 1 could not tell what it was, I could not posi- 
tively assert what it was not. 

I sat by the open window, while she smoothed the 
pillow, and placed every article with an exactness which 
would inevitably betray the slightest disturbance. 

" You shall see for yourself, sir, the next time you 
come here," she muttered. 

As I waited, I lifted a little volume, which lay, with 
others, on the table before me. It was Mrs. Brown- 
ing's, and it opened at a page where a book-mark had 
been left once I had seen Eleanor embroidering that 
very mark, I was sure. The first lines which caught 
my eye were these : 

" It trembled on the grass 

With a low, shadowy laughter; 
The sounding river, which rolled forever, 
Stood dumb and stagnant after." 

Just then a cloud swept over the noonday sun ; a 
chill struck through the open window ; the wind which 
blew in, fluttering the page, could not' have been more 
dreary had it blown across a churchyard. Shivering, 
I continued to read : 



152 THE DEAD LETTER. 



/' trembled on the i 

With a low, shadowy laughter ; 
And the wind did toll, as a passing soul 

Were sped by church-boll after ; 
And shadows 'stead of light. 
Fell from the stars above, 
In flakes of darkness on her face 
Still bright with trusting love. 
Margret! Margretl 

He lovfd but only thee ! 

That love la transient, too ; 
The wild hawk's bill doth dabble still 

In the mouth that vowed thee true. 
Will ho open his dull eyes, 

When tears fall on his brow? 
Behold the donih-worm in his heart 

Is a nearer thing than thou, 

Margret ! Margret I" 

1 know not if the housekeeper spoke to me. The 
cloudfl thicki'iinl :ilmt tin- sun ; a <l:uii]uu"^ came in 
from the air. I held the book, staring at it, like .-in- 
in a trance, and pondering the strange coincidence. 
Evidently, Henry hal iv.nl these \i-rsr* when he last 
opened the book perhaps the lovers had read them 
together, with a soft sigh for the fate of Martzret, ami 
a smile in each other's faces to think how salt- f/in'r 
happiness was how far removal from this iloU-fiil 
' Komaiint." Now would he "open his dull eyes," 
for Eleanor's tears ? I seemed to hear the low laugh 
of the mocking fiend; a more than wintry soreness 
nettled upon the landscape : 

" // trembled on the floor !" 

Yes! I was fast iri-ttini; into tin- mood for believing 
anything which Mrs. Scott might assert about the oc- 
cupant of this chamber. Km>tins which 1 hail m-\.-r 
before c\prri-ncc.l chillrd my In-art ; sha|>cs he-/ 
gather in fvrrv obscure corner ; when the rising wind 
suddenly blew a door shut, in the hall beneath,! started 
to my feet. 

"We're gob' to have a stormy Christmas," said my 



GLOOM. 153 

companion. "It'll suit our feelin's better'n a sunny 
one, I'm sure. Hark ! there's my Johnny cryin', I do 
believe ! I should think his father could keep him. quiet 
a bit, till I get the house shut up again." 

" It was that cat, I thought." 

" Never mind. I'm through now, if you please, 
sir. Take a look at this room, and fix it on your 
mind, if you will ; and the next time you're out here, 
we'll open it together." 

"We reclosed and barred the shutters throughout 
the house, carefully fastened the doors, once more 
leaving it to its desolation. We had seen no ghosts ; 
I do not suppose the woman expected to see any, 
but I felt certain that her fears were in no manner dis- 
pelled. 

" You see the place is all right," I said, when I hand- 
ed her the keys. " There is nothing in the world to 
make you uneasy. I v. r ould as soon sleep alone in the 
villa as in my own room. I will do it, soon, if you are 
not satisfied. All I ask of you is not to write to Mr. 
Moreland until I have seen you again. I shall come 
out before many days, to see how you get along." 

" We shall wait until you come again, sir, before we 
say any thing. I feel better, now things are 'tended 
to. There's Johnny crying again ! Well, Mr. Red- 
field, good-by. It'll snow by the time you get home." 

I had a wild walk back to the village full of lonely 
magnificence and gloom, which suited my temper. Gray 
mists hung over the river and swept about the bases 
of the hills ; gray clouds whirled around their summits ; 
gray snow came down in blinding drifts ; a savage wind 
seemed to be blowing the universe about my ears. 



154 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE LITTLE GUEST AXD THE APPARITION. 

I WEXT to Mr. Argyll's to the Christmas dinner. I 
was surprised to meet Eleanor in the family group ; 
for, though she now frequently joined thr home circle, 
I thought that on this holiday her own I.-- would 
press upon her with overwhelming weight. Instead of 
this, I saw .1 light in her countenance which it had 
never before worn ; her face, totally devoid of smiles or 
color, yet shone with a serene and solemn luster, the 
most t ;ic!iiii'_r. the most laddeniBg, and yet elevating, 
of any expression I had t-vcr M-CII upon human features. 
My intense sympathy with her taught me how to trans- 
late this new phase of her mind ; I felt that, in 
mystic vows which she had taken upon herself with a 
spirit, she had derived a comfort ; that she joyed in the 
consciousness that she was now and from henceforth 
evermore the bride of him who waited for her in the 
mansions of the Heavenly country. This lif,. was trail- 
to 1,.- meekly borne a little while alone then 
she would go to him who awaited her in the only true 
and abiding home. I, and I only, looked upon 1. 
the wife of Henry Moivlan.i iiy as if he were 

her living partner. I only was lilted, by the power of 
my own passion and sulVering. to appreciate her position, 
and the feelings with which she now returned to her 
friends, to play such a part in life as duty Still pointed 
out. I can not explain with what an emotion <>!' 
erenee I took and pressed the little, attenuated hand 
which she placed in mine. 

There had been, as yet, no change in Eleanor's de- 
meanor toward me. Whether I imagined it in the rest 



THE CHU13TMAS DUSTER. 155 

of the family, or whether they had changed, this much 
was still certain, and gave me the deepest pleasure I 
could now know : Eleanor was the same to me as she 
had ever been the benignant, gentle sister, who loved 
and trusted me as a dear brother more clear than ever 
since I had given such proofs of my devotion to her 
cause since she could not but see how my very heart 
was wrung with the pain which tore her own. As 
long as she continued to treat me thus, as long as I 
could give her one smallest atom of pleasure in any way, 
I felt that I could bear any thing from the others. Not 
that there was any thing to bear nothing nothing, 
except that indefinable air which a sensitive spirit feels 
more keenly than any open slight. The new year was 
now approaching; it would be the most natural time 
for entering into HBAV business relations ; I felt that if 
Mr. Argyll intended to offer me the partnership, ho 
would do it then. If he did not I must look out for 
myself I must go away. 

The Christmas dinner was the sumptuous feast which 
it always had been, the old housekeeper having taken 
it into her own hands. She, to judge by her provision, 
felt that such kind of painstaking would be a relief to 
the general gloom. No guests were invited, of course. 
It was touching to see how the servants persisted in 
placing every imaginable delicacy before Miss Eleanor, 
which she could not, by any possibility, even taste. A 
cup of coffee, with a piece of bread, made up her slen- 
der Christmas feast. Yet it was a joy to her father to 
have her at the table at all. Mary's affectionate glances 
continually sought her face; parent and sister both 
felt relieved and comforted by its tranquil expres- 
sion. 

James, too, was cheerful ; he would have been bril- 
liant had an opportunity offered. I, who read him 
tolerably well, knew that it was the sight of Eleanor's 



156 THE DEAD LETTER. 

tranquillity which had inspired him-r-and that he did 
not understand that saintly resignation as I did. 

In the course of the conversation around the table, 
which I did my best to make cheerful, 1 happened to 
speak of Lenore Burton. It was not the first time 1 
had mentioned her, always with such enthusiasm as to 
excite the interest of the ladies. Mary asked me many 
questions about her, finally turning to her sister, and 
saying, 

"You were always so fond of children, Eleanor. 
May I not send for this beautiful little girl to spend a 
few days with us ?" 

" Certainly, Mary, if you think you would like her 
company." 

" Do you think her father would trust her to us a 
little while, Kit-hard ?" 

"lie can be persuaded, without doubt." 

Alter \\e had let'i the table, Mary came to me, with 
much animation, to whisper her ideas about the pro- 
posed visit; she thought the sight of an agreeable, 
lovely child about the house might interest Eleanor 
more than any tiling Hsc possibly could, and would, at 
least, delight her lather, who was drooping under the 
silence and mourning in his home. I <juite air reed with 
her in her opinions, deciding to write that evening a 
pressing plea to Mr. Urn-ton, promi-in^ the most . 
ful attention to his frail little household blossom which 
a trusty housekeeper and loving friends could extend. 
I WOUld COmc down to the city for her, and attend her 
dutifully on her little journey, if hi- eon-cut was Lrhen, 
and Miss Lenore herself approved the- action. 

The next day I had an an-wer. Mr. llurton wrote 
that Lenor. iited with the invitation, nd that 

he accepted it the more willingly, as he was called un- 
expectedly to Boston, where ho should be absent a 
week or ten days, and that he had not liked leaving his 



THE ARRIVAL. 157 

daughter so lonely during the holidays. He added that 
he was obliged to leave that morning; but I might 
come for Lenore at any time ; I would find her ready ; 
and that, upon his return from Boston, he would come 
up to Blankville after her ; closing his note with polite 
thanks for our friendly interest in his little girl, etc. 
Thus every thing was satisfactory. The third clay after 
Christmas I went down, in the morning, to New York, 
returning in the afternoon with my little treasure, who 
was brimful of happiness, enjoying the ride with the 
zest of childhood, and confiding herself to my guardian- 
ship with a joyful content, which awakened my tender- 
est care in response. This artless faith of the child in 
the providence of the grown-up man it is which brings 
.put the least selfish part of his character, bowing his 
haughty, hardened nature to minister to the humblest 
of its confiding wants. 

The sisters both came into the hall to receive their 
little visitor. They took her into the parlors, bright 
with chandelier and firelight, unhooding and uncloaking 
her before the grate. I was anxious to witness the im- 
pression she made, for I had been so lavish of my 
praises, as to run the risk of creating a disappointment. 

It was impossible to be disappointed in Lenore. She 
made conquest of the whole family in the half-hour be- 
fore tea. It was not her exquisite beauty alone, but her 
sweet expression, her modest self-possession amid her 
stranger - friends, enhancing its effect. Mr. Argyll 
brightened as I had not lately seen him ; every other 
minute Mary would repeat the welcome of her little 
guest Avith another kiss, declaring, in her pretty, willful 
way, that Mr. Richard was not going to monopolize 
Miss Lenore because he was the oldest acquaintance 
Lenore having chosen her seat by my side, with her 
hand nestled in mine. 

James was not in the house ; he did not come home 



158 THE DEAD LETTER. 

until some time after we had taken our tea drank his 
alone in the dining-room and joined our circle quite 
late in the evening. As lu> came in we were sitting 
about the tire. L<n>;v h:;tl L'<MU-. of her own inclina- 
tion, to Mi-- Argyll's side, where she sat on a lowstunl, 
with her head against the lady's lap. She made a u:iy 
picture as she sat there, framed around with the 1'lack 
of Eleanor's garments. Her traveling-dress was of 
crimson merino, and her cheeks what with the ride in 
the cold air, and the glow of the present lire, were al- 
most as red as her dress ; while her golden curls >t ream- 
ed in shining strands over the sable habiliments against 
which she rested. She was replying archly to 
teasing remark of Mr. Argyll's, and I was thinking 
what a brightness she would gift to the dull house, 
when James came forward, holding out his hand, with 
one of his pleasantest smiles, saying, 

"This is the litlle lady, is it, \\hom we ha\e been so 
anxiously waiting to see?, (.'an I be introduced, 
cousin Mary, or does not the Queen of Fairies allow 
herself to make the acquaintance of ordinary m<r- 

You have noticed, reader, how some little cloud, 
floating in the west at sunset, will be (lushed through 
with rosy light, and how, instantly, while yon gaxe, it 
will turn gray, losing every particle of radiance. So 
the child changed when he approaehcd and sp, 
her. Her cheeks faded to a gray whiteness ; her 
were riveted on his, but she could not smile ; she seem- 
ed to struggle with some inward repugnance and her 
sense of what courtesy demanded : finally she laid her 
little cold hand in his, without a word, suffered him to 
kiss her, and, clinging close to Eleanor, remained pale 
and quiet ber ga\ ety and bloom were alike g me. .M i . 
Argyll could not rally her she shrunk like a sensitive* 
plant. 



GOOD-NIGHT. 159 

" If that pallid, stupid little creature is the marvelous 
child Richard promised us, I must say, he has sho\vn 
his usual good taste," commented James in an aside to 
Mary. He was not flattered by the reception he had 
met. 

" Something is the matter with her, James. She is 
wearied with her journey. I am afraid we are keeping 
her up too late. She was gay enough a little while 
since." 

" Are you tired ? "Would you wish to go to bed ?" 
whispered Miss Argyll. 

" If you please," she replied, with an air of relief. 

" You are not getting homesick so soon ?" asked 
Mr. Argyll. 

" I am not ; I like it here very much," answered Le- 
nore, candidly. " Something is the matter with me 
now, sir, and you must please excuse me. My head 
began to ache just now so 1 suppose I had better go 
to bed." 

She bade us good-night with a smile so restrained 
that I felt afraid she was not going to enjoy her visit. 
Eleanor herself took her away to the maid who was 
to attend upon her, and did not return to us until her 
little guest was in bed. 

" Come, Mary, let's drop the baby question, and play 
chess," said James, impatiently, as we discussed the 
visitor ; " I'm tired of the subject." 

'' Wait until to-morrow, and you will become inter- 
ested too," she responded. 

" I like hearty little bread-and-butter girls," said he, 
" but not such die-away misses as that. She looks to 
me as if she read Coleridge already. Children should 
be children, to please me." 

The repulsion was mutual. I, only, had noticed the 
strange effect wrought upon my pet by a sight of 
James, and knowing, as I did, the peculiarities of her 



100 THE DEAD LETTER. 

temperament, it had astonished me, and aroused my 
curiosity. By the ill-humor with \vhk-h he received 
any allusion to Lcnore, I believed that James him>elf 
was conscious that the pure eyes of the child looked 
straight into the darker chambers of his heart, and 
was frightened by what she saw there. A young man 
who was gambling away his uncle's property upon the 
credit of a daughter's hand which he had not yet won, 
could not have a very ea>y conscience ;' and it was not 
a pleasant thing to be reminded of his delinquent 
the clear eyes of an innocent child. As he became al>- 
sorbed in his game of chess, I sat studying his coun- 
tenance, and thinking of many things. I wondered if 
his uncle and cousins were not aware of the change 
which was coming over him; that recklcs-, di-^ij-atrd 
look which writes certain wrinkles in a young man's 
face, overwritten in his by outer smiles, which could 
not hide the truth from a -ii-ccrning eye. I asked my- 
self if I could justifv in v course in keejt'mir silence about 
what I had seen; it was my plainest duty to inform 
Mr. Argyll, not only on hi.- account, but on James' also. 
Such a knowledge, coming to his uncle, though it would 
be terribly mortifying to his m-plu-w, might be the 
means of breaking his nev. tetters of habit before they 
were riveted upon him. Such, I felt, was my duty. At 

;ue time, I shrunk from it, as a person sitn.-i' 
I was naturally would >himk ; I was liable to have my 
motives misconstrued ; to have it hint. -d that self inter- 
est was prompting me to place* James in a bad light. 

No, I Couldn't do it ! For flu- hundredth time I c.ime 

in this conclusion, against the higlu-r voice of the ab- 
solute right. I was glad to -.tivngihi-n myself in my 
\ve.ikeourse by rcmembciing that Mr. Hurton had re- 

1 my silence, and that I was not at liber 
betray his confidence. Looking at him, thinking 
things, with my thoughts more in my eyes than 



THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET. 161 

ought to have been had I been on my guard, James 
suddenly looked up and encountered my gaze. He 
pushed the board aside with an angry motion, which 
overthrew half the men and entirely disconcerted the 
game. 

" Well, how do you like my looks, Richard ?" the 
defiant eyes glittering with a will which overpowered 
my own, smiling a deadly smile which threatened me. 

" How peevish you are, James! I believe you threw 
up the game because you saw I was checkmating you," 
cried his cousin. 

" That's it, my dear child ; I never would allow my- 
self to be checkmated !" 

" Then you shouldn't play !" 

" Oh, sometimes I allow women to win the game ; 
but when I play with men, I never give up. The man 
who attempts the chances with me must prepare for 
defeat." 

" How generous you are to the witless sex," said 
Mary, sarcastically. "I am much obliged to you, that 
you sometimes allow us to win. Just pickup that castle 
you have sent tumbling in ruins, if you please, sir 
and don't ask me to play chess for at least a fortnight." 

I perceived a threat in his words of which the girl 
was quite innocent ; he was throwing down the gaunt- 
let to me; again and again his air, his words, were such 
that I could put no other construction upon them. He 
was determined to misunderstand me to look upon me 
as a person seeking to injure him. I was in his way 
I must get out of it. This was the manner he put on 
to me. I felt that night, more than ever, the conviction 
that my connection with the Argylls was about to be 
broken. If James felt thus toward me, I should be un- 
willing to take a position which he regarded as belong- 
ing, of right, to himself. Worse than all, I felt that 
his treacherous nature was working secretly against me, 



162 THE DEAD LETTER. 

and that his efforts had already told upon those whose 
lore and respect was most precious to me. 

Shortly after, I took my leave ; he was so engrossed, 
with his back toward me, looking over some old en- 
gravings, that he did not turn to say good-ni<_rht. My 
room at my boarding-house had a particularly cheerless 
air that evening ; I felt lonely and embittered. My 
heart ached for sympathy. I resolved that, if a part- 
nership was not offered CD New YcarX I would pro- 
pose a visit to my mother, for whose love and cncour- 
agement I longed. The event of going away, too, 
would give Mr. Argyll the opportunity of declaring 
himself in one way or another. 

Lenore's visit was a decided success in the way, too, 
which I had hoped for. Her fine and spiritual nature 
was drawn toward Eleanor in a manner which made 
the latter love her, and grow to feel a consolation m 
the touch of the little hand, the unsought ki<s and the 
silent sympathy which brought the child to sit hours 
by her side, saving nothing, l>nt looking with wonder 
and reverence at a sorrow too deep for her vomit; heart 
to fathom. I.enore frolicked with Mr. Argyll, chatted 
and sung with Mary ; but she wax always ready to leave 
either for her cjuiet corner by Miss Argyll. Mary pre- 
tended jealousy, though we were all glad to see the 
interest Kleanor took in the child. Oneofourgn 
pleasure* was in Lenorc's singing. I have mentioned 
the purity and great compass ..i . To hear 

her -ing some ot i IIIfM, of :\ Sabbath twilight, 

was nlmovt to obtain a glimpse into the heaven toward 
which her voice soared. I saw Kli-.-umr |iiietly 
ing while she sung, and I knew the music wa- loo-en- 
ing the tense strain upon her heart-chords. 

I \\a^ interested in watching two things first, t he 
attachment between Miss Argyll and I.en.,ie; secondly, 
the persistent effort of James to overcome his first 




ge .I&L 



FLOWERS AND FLATTERIES. 163 

aversion, and his nltiraate success. By the second day 
he had mastered his chagrin at the evident dislike of 
the child, who could hardly compel herself to be polite 
to him, and who grew constrained and pale whenever 
he was near her. James Argyll was not the man to 
allow a child to slight him with impunity. His indo- 
lence was a repugnance to business and study ; it was 
no weakness of the will, for when he set his resolves 
upon an object, he usually accomplished it. I saw that 
he had resolved to conquer Lenore. He paid court to 
her as if she were a " lady of the land," instead of a 
little girl ; on New Year's he overwhelmed her with 
splendid presents ; he took her out sleigh-riding with 
him, in a fancy cutter, which he declared was only just 
large enough for those two, with chimes of silver bells 
and a spirited horse. I ought not to have felt grieved 
that Lenore, also, like the rest of the world, proved 
faithless to me. But I did. I was more hurt by her 
growing indifference to me and her increasing fascina- 
tion for James than the subject warranted. I should 
have known that rides and dolls, flowers and flatteries, 
and a dainty little ring for her forefinger, would win 
any little maiden of eleven ; but I had estimated Le- 
nore's character higher. I had noticed her attractions 
and repulsions, the former always toward noble and 
true persons the latter toward the unworthy. Now, 
however, my little bird was charmed by the serpent's 
eye ; she was under the influence of James' will, and I 
resigned her. 



About ten days after my visit to Mrs. Scott, I kept 
my promise to her, by returning to inquire about the 
present condition of Moreland villa. I saw, as soon as 
I entered the cottage, that her mind was preyed on by 
the same convictions which had troubled her on tho 
former occasion. 



164 THB DEAD LETTER. 

" If there ain't at least one ghost in that house, then 
there never was such a thing, and there never will be 
now! You've seen for yourself there ain't a human 
being in it and there is something 1 I've seen it and 
heard it, and you can't convince a person against them 
two senses, I reckon." 

" I don't want to convince you, Mrs. Scott ; I only 
want to convince myself what this thing is which y.m 
have seen and heard. Have you had any new revela- 
tion- 

"I've seen the death-light once since, standing over 
the house ; we saw it, too, shinin' out of that room 
John and I saw that together. We was so set on 6nd- 
in* out whether it was spirits or not, we mustered up 
courage to go through tin- house a -/in the next day, 
ami as sure as you're settin' there, xnn,<thin<j had l>eeii 
back and laid down on that bed ag'in something light, 
that scarcely made a dent you needn't tell me 'twas 
any human mortal, which it wasn't. We've heard 
children cryin', too, which is an evil omen, the dream- 
book says ; an' to clap the climax, Mr. Kedfield, t i 
no use keepin' it back tr, Yi? seen the gh"*t . r * 

I was now as intended as the woman could d> 
she had stopped, mysteriously, after making this 
declaration, and sat looking me in the eyes. I returned 
her ga/.e with one of silent imjuiry, leaning a little lop- 
ward in my chair. Mrs. Scott smoothed her :ipn>n 
absently, with her large hands, still looking into my 
eyes, as if she saw the ghost in their distending pupils. 
I made tip my mind that I was going to hear either 
something of ridiculous sh.ido\\yness magnified into an 
apparition, or something which would give s,,me tan- 
gible clue to the mystery, if there was a m\ >t 
Mordant! villa. 

" You have been fortunate," said I. " What was it 
like, pray ?" 



THE APPARITION. 165 

" You've noticed there was a little balcony under 
the windows of Henry's room ?" 

" I know there is such a balcony." 

" It was there we saw it. You know how bright 
the nights have been lately, with the full moon and the 
snow. John und I walked out, night before last, to the 
front of the villa, to see what we could see and there 
it was ! It was as light as day, and we both had a 
good look at it. I don't know how long it might have 
stayed if I hadn't screamed. John clapped his hand 
over my mouth to stop me, but he was too late ; it sort 
of riz right up and disappeared." 

" But what was it like man, woman, or child ?" 

" It was like a ghost, I tell you," replied the house- 
keeper, stoutly. " I s'pose sperits are dressed purty 
much alike in the next world, whether they're men or 
women. We read in the Bible of the white robes 
and I've never heard of a spook that was dressed in 
any other way. It may have been Henry in his shroud, 
for all I know that's what I believe it was there 
now !" 

" Henry was never dressed in a shroud," I answered, 
gravely ; " he was buried in a black-broadcloth suit. 
So you see that you were not correct there." 

" Oh, well, Mr. Redfield, we can't understand these 
things it isn't given to us. I can tell you what John 
and I saw, and you can make up your own mind. 
There was a shape, on the balcony, standing straight 
up, white all over. A long white garment hung from 
its head to its feet ; its face was turned up to the moon, 
and its arms were raised as if it prayed. It's eyes was 
wide open, and it's face as pale as a corpse's. John 
and I will both make our affydavit to it, in court, if 
it's necessary." 

" Where did it go to when it disappeared ?" 

" It seemed to me to turn into the air ; but that I 



166 THE DEAD LETTER. 

wouldn't be so sure about. John thought it went 
right through the side of the hoi 

" Was the window open behind it ?" 

"Wai, reallv now, I wouldn't swear that it was, or 
wasn't. The fact i-. I \\ :i- so scaart the minit I saw it, 
I like to have dropped. John was for staying * to see 
if it wouldn't come ag'in,' but I wouldn't let him, so 
we both cut and run." 

44 1 am sorry you didn't use your eyes to better ad- 
vantage.'" 

When you see a thing like that, I reckon you'll run, 
too. It ain't at all likely the window was open, or we 
would have noticed it. It was all shut up the next 
mornin', the same as ever." 

44 That was yesterday. I suppose you have not been 
in the villa since ?" 

44 Lord ! no, sir. I wouldn't go now for a hundred 
dollars." 

% - Have you noticed any thing else peculiar ?" 

44 Yes, sir. There's been footsteps around the house 
in the snow." 

44 ludeed ?" I said, eagerly ; " that is more like some- 
thing. Can I see them now ?" 

" N.I, sir; the sun's melted Ym all off. But if you 
think they're the tracks of persons eomin' about the 
house for any purp<>M>, just tell me, will you, sir, how 
they happened to be just about the porch, and so on, 
and not a track to it, nor away from it, in no direc- 
tion?" 

44 Indeed, I can not explain it, until I've rooted out 
the mystery from the beginning." 

44 Nor it can't be explained," cried the housekeeper, 
triumphantly. 

It worried her to think I was no skeptical when she 
had given such absolute proofs; the ile;i of tin- haunted 
villa waa making her really sick, yet she would not 



PONDERING. 167 

give up her cherished belief in its being haunted. I 
think she would have been disappointed if any one 
had come forward 'and sworn himself the ghost. 

I sat a little while pondering her statements. There 
had been nothing, on the former occasion, to convince 
me that any intruder, human or spiritual, had been in 
the villa except the shadowy imprint of a form on 
Henry's bed, and for the proof that it had not been 
made before the house was cleaned up, I had nothing 
but her word. As for the death-light and the wailing 
sounds, I conceived that, in that lonesome, solitary 
place, two persons of the class to which these belonged, 
with their excited imaginations reacting upon each 
other, might easily persuade themselves of such mai 1 - 
vels. Even in this last statement, that both of them 
had clearly and distinctly seen a white form on the 
balcony of the room, I did not find much to disturb 
me. There is nothing better for producing all kinds of 
shapes and phantoms to a frightened or superstitious 
eye, than a bright, moonlight night. It is far better 
than the deepest darkness. The earth is full of weird 
shadows ; the most familiar objects take on an unnat- 
ural appearance in the gleaming rays, enhanced in 
their strange effect by the black, fantastic shadows 
which stretch away from them. Add to this, a gar- 
ment of snow spread over every thing. .The landscape 
on which we have rested our gaze, every day, for years, 
under these circumstances will be as novel to us, as if 
it were a bit of scenery transplanted from some strange 
and far country. A vivid fancy, predisposed to the 
work, can make an excellent ghost out of a rose-bush 
or a fence-post a fearful apparition out of the shadow 
of a cornice heaped with snow. In the present case, 
not only were the man and his wife in that feverish 
state in which the eye makes visions for itself, but they 
were quite ready to link such phantoms with Henry's 



168 THE DEAD LETTER. 

room, which they had previously decreed to be the fa- 
vorite abode of the ghost. A review of the whole 
case led me rather to be vexed with them, than satisfied 
there was any reason for the mental "stew" into which 
they had heated themselves. The only tangible things 
of the whole medley were the footprints. If there 
were actually traces of feet walking about the prem- 
ises, that was enough to satisfy me not of a gh v t, 
but of a person, engaged in prying about the villa for 
some unlawful purpose. I made up my miml to watch 
for this person, and entrap him. It occurred to me, at 
once, that one of those dare-devil spirits, to be found 
in every community, w:is purposely ircttini: up scenic 
effects on the premises, for thcamu>cmeni of spreading 
the report that the villa was haunted, and exciting the 
gossip and credulity of the village. I was indignant 
at the heartlessness of the plan, and resolved, should I 
catch the perpetrator, to inflict such summary eh 
ment, as would cure him of his taste for practical 
joking. The assertion of the woman that th- : 
began and ended nowhere that no one had approached 
the house, because there were no footsteps coming in 
from any direction did not receive entire credit from 
me. Were that actually the case, then, it wa> p.^iiive 
evidence that the person was secreted in the dwelling 
an idea foolish and incredible on the face of it, for 
many reasons. 

However, I was in earnest, now, about the matter; 
I would ascertain the truth or explode the falsehood, 
and make an end of it, before painful reports should 
reach the ears of friends, or every idle ragamuffin in 
the country make that hallowed place, consecrated by 
the tics and memories of the one now gone, the focus 
of his vulgar curiosity. 

** Where is your husband ?" 

" He's sortin' pertaters, or tyin' up seeds, in the loft." 



RATS. 169 

" Please call him down, and give me the keys of the 
house." 

The gardener came, following very reluctantly, at my 
bidding, while I again entered the villa, and went over 
every room, stationing him in the hall, so that no one 
could possibly escape during my visit to the lower and 
upper floors. I searched from cellar to garret, while 
Mrs. Scott, with her pale-blue eyes wide open, and af- 
fecting a bustling bravery which her looks belied, ac- 
companied me. Once, at a sudden noise, she seized the 
skirts of my overcoat, but resigned them when I told 
her it was caused by John's shutting the front hall- 
door. 

" Dear ! dear ! there's rats in the villa, at last !" she 
exclaimed, removing the cover of a flour-barrel which 
stood in the store-room. " They've been in this flour ! 
I'm sorry, for they're an awful pest. They'll make 
trouble if I don't watch 'em clost. I believe I'll pizen 
'em. Mrs. Moreland told me to take this flour home 
and use it up ; but we haven't needed it yet, and I've 
left it here, and now they've made pretty work with it." 

" If there are rats here, I shan't be surprised at all 
kinds of noises," I remarked. " Rats are equal to al- 
most any thing. They will tramp like an army of men, 
or stalk like a solitary burglar. They will throw down 
plates and cups like this one, broken on the floor here, 
since we came here last ; muss pillows and drag books 
out of place. You really will have to keep a sharp 
lookout." 

" They won't cry like a child, nor moan like a sick 
person, nor stand on balconies dressed in shrouds !" ob- 
served the housekeeper. 

" I think they would do the first two," and I smiled, 
" but as to the latter, I'm not prepared to assert." 

" I reckon not. I only wish you'd seen it, Mr. Red- 
field." 



170 THE DBAD LBTTEB. 

" I shall stay to-night in the hope of that pleasure, 
Mrs. Scott." 

" I'm right glad to hear you say so, sir. It's not 
pleasant to be placed in the situation I am to know 
what I know, and not to have my word taken." 

It was true ; it could not be pleasant for her to have 
her earnest statements received with so mm-h skepti- 
cism ; I did not wonder that she felt hurt, almost ofl'cnd- 
ed; at the same time I felt as if I, in my turn, should 
be intensely aggravated if I found out there was no- 
thing in all this flurry. 

This second search resulted in nothing, like the first. 
It was nearly dark when we returned to the cotta-e, 
where Mrs. Scott allowed me to dandle her fat, good- 
natured baby, Johnny, while she prepared tea in a style 
befitting the important occasion of "company." 

" If you're in earnest about sittin' up to watch, I'll 
make coffee, instid of tea, if it's agreeable to you, .Mr. 
Redfield. It's better to keep one awa! 

I assented to this assertion, being of a similar opin- 
ion myself. She set her litisl>:uul to rrimlin^ the de- 
lectable berry in a hand-mill, and soon an excellent sup- 
per, with cold ham and hot biscuits, was placed upon 
tin- table. The night promised to be elear and cold; 
the moon would not rise until about eleven ; 1 f.Ttitied 
myself against the hard-hips of my adventure by two 
CUp8 of Strong coffee, \vith :i substantial meal ; parsed 

nn hour or two chatting with the couple and singing 
Johnny to sleep ; then, about eight o'clock, I buttoned 
my overcoat close, tied my muffler about my neck, and 
went forth to begin picket-duty. 

"I'll leave th. tin- stove, and a good fin-," 

was the parting^ promise of the good woman, ^ho 
seemed to think I had rather a solemn time before me. 

"Thank you, Mrs. Scott ; if I make no discoveries 
by one or two o'clock, I shall come in to warm myself, 



A LONG WATCH. 171 

and give up the hope for this occasion. You know mid- 
night is the witching-hour it will be useless to stay 
much later." 

" The Lord be with you," she said, earnestly. 

Armed with a stout walking-stick, with which I in- 
tended to inflict punishment upon any intruder of earth- 
ly mold, I walked out on the lawn, taking such a survey- 
as I could in the dim light ; like the rain in the child- 
ren's riddle, I went " round and round the house," and 
finally took station on the front porch, where I walked 
softly back and forth, listening fbr sounds within and 
without. I heard and saw nothing. The long hours 
slipped sloAvly away. Just before moonrise the dark- 
ness seemed to deepen, as it does before dawn. My in- 
tention was to take up some position on the lawn, 
where, unseen myself, I could command the approaches 
to the villa, and also have a view of Henry's room, 
with the balcony. It was time now to secrete myself, 
before the approaching moon should reveal me to the 
person or persons who might themselves be on the 
watch. Accordingly, I selected a seat on the little rus- 
tic bench, completely encircled with bushy evergreens, 
which not only concealed my person, but afforded me 
considerable protection from the cold. I can not, to 
this day, breathe the pungent odor of the spicy trees, 
without recalling the experiences of that night. A 
silence, like that which Dr. Kane speaks of as one of 
the most impressive features of the long Arctic night, 
brooded around ; over against the hills came gradually 
stealing the silvery luster of the rising moon, while the 
valleys yet lay in profoundest gloom ; the dimly glim- 
mering stretches of snow broadened into whiter fields ; 
the picturesque villa, with its turrets and porches and 
pointed roof, stood black and quiet before me. I could 
hear a dog barking afar off, as it were some dream-dog 
barking in some dream-world. I had almost forgotten 






172 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the cause of my being there, at that strange hour, in 
that lone spot, gazing at that dark mass of building, 
empty of life and warmth as was ht-r heart of joy or 
hope ; the intense cold, the odor of the pines and hem- 
lock, the trance of thought into which I had fallen, 
were benumbing me. 

Suddenly I saw a shapeless and shadowy brightness 
hovering amid those dark turret*. It was the death- 
light of which Mrs. Scott had told me. A warm thrill 
ran through my fingers and toes, arousing me- to the 
keenest consciousness. I watched it flutter and move 
stand still flutter again and disappear. It la-ted 
perhaps three minutes. In that time I had made up 
my mind as to the mysterious appearance it was the 
light of a lamp or candle being carried about in a per- 
son's hand. That was what it nm-t iv-rmbled ; but 
who carried it, and how was the reflection thrown tftcre^ 
over the roof? There was certainly a iiiy-tn \ about 
this which, had I been at all superstitious, or cv en nerv- 
ous, would have unfitted me for any further cool investi- 
gation. I resolved that if I could not master the 
man-el then, I would do it by the light of day. I 
watched intently, hoping it would reappear, and give 
me some glimpse of its origin. While I waited, a ray 
of light pierced through the shutters of Henry's room. 
I will acknowledge that for one single instant the 
hand of the dead seemed laid on my heart ; it turned 
cold, and refused to beat. The next, I smiled grimly 
at myself. I had never been a moral or physical cow- 
ard. The solution of the mystery was now in my gra-p, 
and I had no idea of letting it slip. I was confident 
that some person was playing the mi-chief in the de- 
serted house; but if I had really expecte.l to confront 
the inhabitants of another world, I should not have 
hesitated. The key of the main entrance was in my 
pocket ; I walked swiftly to the house, unlocked the 



A VAIN QUEST. 173 

door as softly as possible, and grasping my stick firmly 
in my hand, sprung up the stairs. It was quite dark 
in the house, although it was now light out of doors ; 
in my haste, I hit my foot against a chair at the bottom 
of the stairs, and ovei'threw it. I was provoked, for I 
wished to come upon these midnight prowlers unawares. 
Knowing just where the room Avas situated, I went di- 
rectly toward it ; it was very dark in the upper passage, 
all the blinds being closed ; I groped for the handle of 
the door something rustled, something stirred the air 
I flung the door open. There was no light in it. All 
was dark and silent. Before I could fling the shutter 
open, letting in a peaceful flood of silver moonlight, my 
hope of detecting the intruder was almost at an end. 
I was certain that something had passed me in the ob- 
scurity of the hall ; I had been conscious of that subtle 
magnetism which emanates from a human form, per- 
ceived in the blackest night. It might be the magnetism 
of soul instead of body, and a disembodied spirit might 
have sent the same electric current through me. At all 
events, I had now nothing for my labor. I did not 
think that another journey over the house would result 
in any discovery, since the warning had been given ; 1 
had no lamp or lantern with me ; I reluctantly, after 
lingering and listening some time in vain, closed the 
room and the house, and returned to the cottage, where 
I drank the coffee which awaited me, laid down on a 
buffalo-robe before the stove, and slept away my vex- 
ation. 

I was not very communicative as to my adventures 
when eagerly questioned by my entertainers the follow- 
ing morning. They were satisfied, by my very reti- 
cence, that I had seen something to puzzle me, and 
were both alarmed and triumphant. In answer to their 
inquiries, which they were too respectful to press, I 
assured them that I had reason to think, with them, that 



174 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the villa required attention. I had not been able to 
satisfy myself who was disturbing the premises ; but 
that I should not rest until I knew. I should return 
that night and sloop in tho villa ; I wi-hcd 1<> ontor it 
very quietly, probably before dark, so a^ n>t t<> alarm 
tho inmate or inmates; and I was confident that I 
should thus be able to pounce upon the ghost. Mr-. 
Scott rei_ r arded mo with admirim: a\vo. 

"She wouldn't go for to sloop in that house alone for 
all the riches of Solomon," and wouldn't. 1, at least, 
provide myself with pi-toK ': 

When I wont into Mr. Argyll's oiliee that morning, 
he greeted mi- with marked coldiu . At last I eould 
not conceal from myself that, not only had his manner 
changed, but that he wished me to tool that it had. Hi- 
gave me, as I entered, a searching, su-pioious glance, 
saying, "Good-morning, Uiohard." in the most formal 
tone. Nothing further. I took uji a book, hilling my 
pain and embarrassment in an attempt to road ; but inv 
mind was not on the lo'_jal difficulties expounded there- 
in : I was wondering at the causes "I" tho situation in 
which I found myself. A hanger-on ! yes an unwel- 
come hanirer-on in an office whore I no longer had any 
conceded rights in a home where I was no longer 
trusted. 

" lias Mr. Argyll placed a spy on m\ Does 

ho know already that I was out the entire night ? and 
me before he has an explanation':" I 
a-ke'l niVM'lt', indignantly. " If ho thinks I am forming 
bail habits, doing wrong in any respect. \\ i 
not remon>trate with me give me a chance to defend 
mys, 

I had intended to take his advice in the matter of 
the haunted house; but HOW I sat, an -TV and silent, 
feeling, oh, so wounded and forlorn. I did not stay 
long in the office ; going to my room, I wrote a long 



A DEATHLESS KESOLVE. 175 

letter to my mother, telling her I should come soon to 
pay her the visit which should have been sooner made 
had I not been engrossed with the duty to which I had 
vowed myself. 

Yes ! I had pledged my own heart to devote myself 
.to the discovery of Henry Moreland's murderer ; and 
if Eleanor herself had put her foot on that heart, and 
crushed it yet more, I do not know that I should have 
held my vow absolved. 

I should not have gone to the mansion that day, had 
not a message been sent, late in the afternoon, that Mr. 
Burton had arrived, and expected me to meet him at 
tea. I went ; and had the pleasure of seeing little Le- 
nore enthroned by the side of James, who attended 
upon her as if she were a princess, and of being treated 
with bare civility by all save Mr. Burton. Miss Argyll 
was ill, and did not come down. 

I saw the observant eye of Mr. Burton watching the 
intimacy between his daughter and her new friend ; 
whether he was pleased or not, I could not decide ; the 
eye which read the secret thoughts of other men did 
not always betray its own impressions. I was certain, 
too, that he observed the change in the demeanor of 
the family toward me, and my own constrained manner. 



176 TUB DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE NIGHT IN MORELAXD VILLA. 

MR. BURTON'S arrival prevented ray fulfilling the in- 
tention of sleeping ;>t Moreland vill.-i that night; I im- 
mediately resolved to defer my explorations until he 
could keep me company. The next day he came to my 
room, and \ve had, as usual when we met, a long talk 
over things past, present and to come. I did not in- 
troduce the subject of the mystery at the villa until we 
had discussed many other matters. My companion was 
preoccupied with important business of his own the 
same which had taken him to Host CM ; l>ut his in 1 
was pledged, alm<t as earnestly as mine, t<> unmask 
the criminal of the lilankville tragedy, and any refer- 
ence to that sad subject was sure to secure his atten- 
tion. Baffled we acknowledged ourselves, as we talked 
together that morning, but not discouraged. Mr. I>ur- 
ton told me that he W88 on the track of two live-hun- 
dred-dollar bills of the Park Hank, which had left the 
city the \\eek after the murder, tak'mi: widcly-ditfcrciit 
flights ; there had one come back from St. Louis, W!I.>M> 
course his agents were tracing. As for the sewing-girl, 
she had the power of vanishing utterly, like a light 
extinguished, leaving no trace behind, and her pin 
literally in the dark. This comparison of the drti-ctive 
reminded me of the curious light which had led me, 
like a Jack-o'-lantern, into a |iiagmire of uncertainty ; 
I was about to bct_ r in my account of it, when In 
ne of those peculiar piercing looks of his, sa;. 

" You have not yet entered into the content) 
partnership?" 

" No, Mr. Burton; and 1 hardly think now that I shall." 



MR. BURTON EXCITED. , 177 

There was some bitterness in my tone ; he evinced 
no surprise, asking, simply, 

"Why?" 

" I think James has been chosen to fill the place." 

" But, he has not been admitted to the bar." 

" He is studying a little recently ; probably in order 
to pass an examination." 

" The wind is changing," said Mr. Burton, speaking 
like the old gentleman in Bleak House. " I see how 
the land lies. The goodly and noble Argyll ship is 
driving on to the rocks. Mark my words, she will go to 
pieces soon ! you will see her ruins sti-ewing the shore." 

" I pray heaven to avert your prophecy. I hope not 
to live to see any such sight." 

" How can it be otherwise ?" he exclaimed, rising 
and pacing to and fro through my little room, like a 
caged elephant. " A spendthrift and a gambler a man 
like that about to have the helm put in his hands ! 
But it's none of my business none of my business ; 
nor much yours, either." 

" It is mine !" I cried ; " I can not help but make it 
mine, as if these girls were my sisters, and Mr. Argyll 
my father. Yet, as you say it is, indeed, nothing to 
me. They will not allow it to be !" 

I drooped my head on my arms ; my own loss and 
disappointment were receding into the background be- 
fore the idea of their possible discomfiture. I was 
startled by the detective bringing his clenched hand 
down upon the table with a blow which shook it ; he 
was standing, looking not at me, but at the wall, as if 
he saw some one before him, invisible to me. 

" James Argyll is a singular man a singular man ! 
A person ought to be a panther in cunning and strength 
to cope with him. By George, if I don't lookout, he'll 
overreach me yet with that will of his. I see every- 
body about me succumbing. He's having the game all 
8* 



178 THE DEAD LETTER. 

in his own hands. By the way, Rodfield, I was a little 
surprised to see Lenore so fond of him." 

"Why so, Mr. Burton? James is an attractive, ele- 
gant young man; he has never hail any lack of ad- 
mirers. It would rather have been strange if your 
daughter had not fancied him. He has been very good 
to her." 

u He has, indeed; I'm sure I ought to be greatly 
obliged to all of you. Did I ever tell'you that I place 
great confidence in Lenore' s intuitive perception of 
character? You know that I have a remarkable gift 
that way myself. When I meet people, I seem ' 
their minds, and not their bodies I can't help it. Well, 
I've remarked the same tiling in my child. She is so 
young and inexperienced that she can not explain her 
own impressions; she has her instantaneous partiali- 
.tiid I have noticed that she leans toward true na- 
- like a flower toward the li;_:ht, and away from 
the false as if they were shadows. I hardly exp. 
uld be so intimate with young Argyll." 

I remembered the curious effect his first address had 
made upon her ; but I did not repeat it to her father. 
M-n-itivc about appearing in any manner jealous 
of James; it' he could win my friends from me, c\ni 
that little tjirl whom I had loved for her pure sweet- 
ness, let them go! I was too proud to solicit them to 
recon-ider their opinions. 

" Do you know," continued my companion, " he is 
performing a marvel with my little I.,i, ,.:,.- lie has 
gained a great ascendancy over her in tln-M- ten d:i\s. 
This morning, for a purpose which \<m will reali/e I 
qOUsidcrcd highly important, I endi-a\ ..red. alone with 
her in my oun apartment, to place her in the clair\o\- 
ant ri the first time. I failed. Her mind is 

no longer a pellucid minor, relict-tin^ truths without 
color or refraction. She U under the iniluence of a 






PREPARATIONS. 179 

counter-will, as strong as my own and mine moves 
mountains," he added, with a laugh. 

" I shouldn't think you would like it." 

" I don't ; but she is going home to-morrow.' I will 
tell you why I wished to procure Lenore's aid again. 
I have succeeded in tracing Leesy Sullivan to this vil- 
lage. She came here the day after we frightened her 
from Brooklyn that is, she got off the cars at a little 
station about six miles from here, not daring to land 
at this depot, and, I have no doubt, started on foot for 
Blankville, coining here in the night." 

" That aunt of hers is in the work," I exclaimed. 
" "We are justified in taking any step to compel her to 
own up where she conceals that girl." 

" I am convinced that her aunt knows nothing what- 
ever about her. Has Mrs. Scott kept a shai-p lookout 
at the villa ?" 

" She has not seen her since that first day ; and I be- 
lieve it would be difficult for her to set her foot on the 
place without being discovered, for the woman has got 
it into her head that the place is haunted, and she is on 
guard night and day." 

" Haunted ?" 

Mr. Burton sat down and drew up his chair with an 
appearance of interest, which led me to recount our 
experiences at the villa, and my intention of completing 
my researches that night, in his company, if he had no 
objection. He said, " Of course ; it would give him 
pleasure ; he liked nothing better than an adventure of 
the kind." 

In fact, the idea evidently pleased him immensely ; 
his face brightened, and after that, for the rest of the 
day, for the first time in our brief acquaintance, I saw 
him a little flurried and expectant. One of his mottoes 
was:. 



' Learn to labor, and to wait.'" 



180 THE DEAD LETTEH. 

His was one of those minds which would have kept 
silence Beven years, rather than speak a moment too 
soon; he was seldom in a hurry, no matter what \\ as 
at stake; but the fancy for lying perdu in a haunted 
house, to " nab" a ghost, was a novelty in his detective 
experience, which inwardly amused him. 

He smiled to himself more than onee during the in- 
tervening hours. As soon as tea was over, we excused 
ourselves to the family, kissed Lenore, and, saying that 
Mr. Burton would stay with me all night, we took our 
departure. I left the eonduet of the proceedings in his 
hands. When we reached the cottage. we found Mrs. 
Scott disposed to regard the non-fulfillment of my en- 
gagement on the previous night as proof that 1 was 
frightened from the jiir>uit : >lie accepted my excuse, 
however, and highly approved of my ha\ing a compan- 
ion in the spiritual dangers which I was altout to en- 
counter. She made us, moreover, some of her excellent 
coffee, to aid us in keeping awake, and gave us her 
players for our protection along with the keys of the 
house. 

" Treat a ghost as you would any other burglar," 
said my companion, as we approached the villa, in the 
darkness, by the back entrance. "Steal a march on 
him if you can." 

It was a wild night for an enterprise like ours. It 
reminded me of that night upon which Henry More- 
laud was murdered. One of those sudden changes in 
the weather, common to our climate, had Ken n-.-ms. 
piring through the day, and n..w the warm, wild wind 
which brings in the ''January thaw," was blowing 

ut the place, Baking every loose board creak, and 

u 'ig the bare brandies of the trees against each 
:T with a grating sound. Black clouds, with ragged 
edges, sknrried along the air, with the large stars look- 
ing down between, with wide, bright eyes, as of f-ar. 




WATTING IK THE DABKNESS. 181 

While we stood outside, the great drops began to pat- 
ter down ; and presently it was raining violently, as it 
rained that night. As gently as if he were a robber 
making a felonious entrance, Mr. Burton turned the 
key in the lock ; we entered the thick darkness of the 
house, closed the door, and stole noiselessly, I taking 
the lead, along the stairs and corridors, until we carae 
to Henry's room. This we entered, and, finding chairs, 
sat down upon either side the little table in absolute 
silence. But we might safely have knocked over half 
the furniture without giving alarm to any inmate had 
there been an inmate of the room or villa such a tre- 
mendous uproar was now made by the elements. As 
the rain dashed fitfully against the windows, and the 
wind shook the solitary building, I was nearly over- 
powered with the memories which the place and the 
storm so vivified. I was in a fit mood to become a 
convert to a nocturnal specter in that hour of gloom 
and tempest, under the roof of the murdered, the ma- 
terial world seemed not so far removed from the awful 
and shadowy confines of the spiritual, as it appeared in 
the common routine of daylight life. As my heart 
thumped loudly with the agitation of feelings almost 
too powerful for mortal endurance, I was glad to con- 
sider that my companion was cool, calm and vigilant. 
He had no such memories of the wind and rain to 
overwhelm him as I had ; this roof was not the roof 
of his friend he did not know Eleanor. 

It was rather impressive to the dullest imagination 
to be sitting there at night, in that empty mansion, in 
the darkness, with the storm beating around it, waiting 
for we knew not what. To me, with my ardent tem- 
perament, and under the peculiar circumstances, it was 
exciting in the highest degree. 

For a long time there was but one interruption to our si- 
lent watch. Mr. Burton leaned over the table, whispering, 



182 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" Did you hear some one singing ?" 

" I heard nothing but the \viiul, and the creaking of 
ft tree against the side of the IIOIIM-. except the rain, 
that I would be sure of. Hark!" 

I did think I heard a soft, angelic note of music swell- 
ing in the air above me, but at that moment the tempest 
redoubled its clamor, beating out all lesser sounds. 

" Unless I am mistaken, there was a human voice," 
he continued, in the same whisper. 

" Or a heavenly one," I murmured. 

I believe Mr. Burton said "nonsense!" but I am not 
certain. Airain there was a loni: interval of waiting ; 
we both leaned over toward each other at the same in- 
stant, as the sound of something shoved overhead at- 
tracted our attentive ears. 

" It is rats in the garret," said I. "Mrs. Scott says 
they are in the house." 

"I hardly think it was rats ; but we will wait a while." 

Mr. Burton had brought a lamp ami mate-lies, so that 
we could have a li^ht when we wished it ; if we heard 
any thing more overhead, I knew he would examine 
the at tie. There was a lull in the rain ; as we Bat ex- 
pectant, the pu-hiiiu' sound was shortly followed by a 
liirht. regular patter, as of soft footstep-., aloin: tin- 
floor of the irarret. I had heard rats make precisely 
similar sounds tra\er.in-.: a ceiling; ami though my 
heart beat a little faster, I was still quite certain i: 
the-e troublesome vermin. 

The next tiling which fixed our attention was a glim- 
mer of li-jht. I think the most spectral \iitant could 
hardly have aflected me as did that sudden ray of li-ht, 
shooting through tin- key-hole and under the bottom of 
the door. Silently it crept ahm;: <.\er the carpet, nio\- 
ing as if the object which threw it was carried in the 
hand of a person walking. I do not know exactly what 
I did expect when it paused in front of the door, except 



THE MYSTERY. 183 

that the door would open, and I should see the mys- 
tery. An instant of suspense then the flickering light 
wavered and moved aronnd to the opposite angle from 
that at which it had first appeared it was going 
through the corridor and down the stairs. 

" All right," breathed my companion, in a scarcely 
audible whisper. " Wait !" 

The hand which he laid on my own was cold with 
excitement. As the last yellow gleam trembled and 
disappeared, the elements conspired in a grand attack 
upon our citadel ; we could hear nothing but the roar 
of their artillery the tramp of their battalions. We 
waited perhaps five minutes. 

" Now," and I arose, following Mr. Burton through 
the darkness, as he silently opened the door, crossed 
the corridor, and, leaning over the railing, looked down 
into the lower hall. We could see nothing, until, as 
we descended the stairs, a faint effulgence from some 
distant room penetrated the obscurity. With cautious 
steps we followed it up through the hall and library, 
to the family-room, from which, it will be recollected, 
Mrs. Scott assured me she had heard mysterious noises. 
The door was open a little distance, but not sufficiently 
to give us a view of the interior. As we paused on 
the threshold, we heard a sigh a deep, long-drawn, 
tremulous sigh. With a deft hand my companion 
pushed the door ajar, so that we could step in, and we 
both silently entered. This room, in summer, was the 
favorite sitting-room of Mrs. Moreland ; and here, upon 
the walls, she had the portraits, life-size, in oil, of her 
little family. In front of us, as we stepped in, hung 
the likeness of Henry Moreland. Before it stood a wo- 
man, one hand holding aloft a lighted candle, in a small 
chamber-candlestick, the other pressed upon her heart, 
as if to keep down those painful signs. Motionless, 
rapt, absorbed she stood ; we made no sound, and if 



184 THE DEA-D LETTER. 

we had, I do not think she wouM liavc heard us ; her 
back was toward us; the light was thrown full on the 
picture upon which her t_ r a/e was In-nt. 

The woman was Leesy Sullivan. I knew her at 
once, though her face was turned from us. Here, 
at last, we had found the fugitive we sought, 
haunting the home of the man of whose murder my 
thoughts accused her, standing before his portrait, in 
the. dead of night, unwitting who were the wit:. 
of her secret, as she betrayed it now. How she had 
obtained access to the villa, or how long she had been 
its inmate, I left to future inquiry to develop the pres- 
ent scene was all-engrossing. 

Along long long time she stood there; we <1i.l 
not interrupt her; it was probably the expectation that 
she would utter some soliloquy which would be of im- 
portance to us, as revealing what was on her mind, 
which kept my companion quiet. She said nothing, 
however; only drawing those deep sighs; until, at the 
last, she set the light on the little table brm -ath the 
picture, and, lifting up both hands with a passionate 
gesture toward it, solibed one word " Henry '." 

Then, slowly, as if her e\ es ivl'u-ed to leave the ob- 
ject of their attraction, she began to turn away. We 
had one instant's Blanco at her face before she discov- 
ered us; there was a huniing spot upon either thin 
cheek, and two great tears, frozen, as it were, upon her 
eyelids; and a tremulous curve to the full, red lips of 
the tender and beautiful mouth, as it they quivered with 
grief and love. There was nothing wild or severe 
about her at that moment. Turning, slowly, she per- 
ceived us, standing there in the shadow two rni.-I 
men, hunting her even in this sacred solitude. That 
was the feeling she gave us by the look which passed 
over her countenance ; I felt ashamed and unjustified 
until I forced myself to recollect all. 



CONFRONTED. 185 

She did not scream ; she had passed through too 
many vicissitudes to betray any fright ; she only turned 
white, and put her hand on the table to steady herself. 

" You two men have come here at last, have you ? 
Why do you interfere with me? It's only a little 
while I have to stay, and I want peace." 

" Peace only comes with a pure conscience," said 
Mr. Burton, sternly. " What are you doing in this 
house ?" 

" I know I have no right here ; but where else will 
you let me stay? Not even by his grave no, not 
even by his grave ! You want to drag me forth before 
the world,- to expose my foolish secret, which I have 
hidden from everybody to put me in prison to mur- 
der me ! This is the business of you two men ; and 
you have the power, I suppose. I am so poor and 
friendless it makes me a fit object for your persecution. 
Well, if you can justify yourselves, dp as you will 
with me !" 

She folded her hands, looking us full in the face with 
eyes which absolutely blazed. 

" If you had no guilty secret, why did you fly from 
friends and enemies ? Why did you not seek an inter- 
view and explanation which would have been satisfac- 
tory to us ?" asked Mr. Burton. 

" You would not believe me if I told you the reason," 
scornfully. " It is not in the minds of men the gross, 
suspicious minds of me* to conceive or credit my ex- 
cuse. I will not make it to such people." 

Really, there waflpft majesty about the girl which 
quite awed me. A^ne confronted us, the undaunted 
spirit sparkling through her slight, wasted face and 
form, compelled a sort of acquiescence in me. I was 
not the one to subdue or handle this powerful nature. 
Mr. Burton was. 

" This is not the proper hour, nor the proper place, 



186 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

to enter into explanations, Miss Sullivan. You must 
go with me to Mrs. Scott's cottage ; she will care for 
you until morning, and then we will have :i t:ilk i<>- 
gether. You will not find me harsh ; nor shall 1 take 
any step without good cause. All I want is the truth 
and that I am bound to have." 

" Let me stay here to-night; I promise you I will 
not attempt to leave the place. I will wait here until 
you see fit to come in the morning.'' 

" I can not ; there is too much at stake," he said, 
with determination. 

" Then let me go and get the child," she said. 

She took up the lamp and we followed her ; up and 
along the garret staircase, mounting the narrow steps 
which led into the attic. There, upon tin- pile of mat- 
tresses which I have mentioned as lying in the corner, 
reposed the baby-girl before spoken of, sleeping sweetly, 
as only infancy can rest. 

" We were under this when you paid us a visit the 
other day," said Leesy. with a sort of bitter smile. 
"I had hard work to keep baby from crying out. She 
ili<l make a In-* at la-t ; yon sail it was a cat." 

"How sound the little creature sleeps," said the 
ive. IK had a gentle heart, which shrunk from 
disturbing the slumbering infant. 

" It's too bad to startle her up so," murmured her 
nurse. 

" Yes, it is. I'll tell you wUat we will do. We will 
lock you up lii-re, an-1 ke.'p ,Mianl in the chamber until 
morning, if that pleases you." 4^ 

"I don't care to take Norah oWfo-the storm." 

"Tll me one thing," said Mr. Burton, his bright 
eye fixing itself on her own ; "are you the mother of 
that babe ?" 

For a moment she answered his look with one of 
astonishment ; then the rosy blood rushed up to neck, 



MAIDEN SIMPLICITY. 187 

cheek and brow a virgin blush, which showed all the 
soft and girlish side of her character. 

" Am I Norah's mother ?" she repeated. " I thought 
you knew I was not a married woman." 

The detective stood, a little embarrassed by the per- 
fect simplicity of her reply. 

" It is understood to be your deceased cousin's child 
an orphan, I believe," he said. " Well, Miss Sullivan, 
we will leave you here, undisturbed, for the remainder 
of the night." 

We descended to the second floor, turning the key 
of the little store-room which inclosed the garret stair- 
case, well satisfied to keep guard until morning, since 
we had secured the mysterious inmate of the haunted 
house. 



188 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE SHADOW ASSUMES SHAPE. 

WE now lighted our lamp, and, finding a light cane 
sofa in the hall, nearly opposite the locked door, we 
took seats, and kept ourselves awake by talking. The 
storm had subsided into the monotonous patter of a 
steady rain. 

"I am surprised," said Mr. Burton, "that you did 
not at once comprehend the secret of this house. The 
moment you spoke the word ' haunted,' I knew how our 
investigations would end. It solved a mystery whieh 
has bothered me for some time. 1 knew that Leesy Sul- 
livan was hero, in this vicinity; the exact hiding-place 
was all I wanted to know ; and when you mentioned 
Moreland villa, I said to my-elf. 4 that's it !' All I was 
then afraid of was, that she would airain elude us, be- 
fore we could lay hands on her. And in laet," he add- 
ed laughingly, " I hardly t'rel sure of her now. She 
may sublime through the ceiling before moniiiiLT." 

"I did not think of h-r, Mr. llurton; I \\ as .|iiite 
Bare some person was playing some game, either < : 
chief or worse, about the villa ; but how could I be 
certain, when two thorough daylight examinations failed 
to reveal any thing ? There did not seem to be a plaee 
at which a person could enter the house ; and as for a 
woman and child being actual inmates, living and sub- 
sisting here for weeks I think notliingJiut actual proof 
could have convinced me of the man el. I am curious 
to know how she managed it.'' 

" I ought to have come right here at first," continued 
my friend, pursuing his train of thought. " Women 
are like mother-birds, when boys approach the nest. 



LEEST DISCUSSED. 189 

They betray themselves and their cherished secret by 
flattering about the spot. If this Miss Sullivan had 
been a man, she would have been in Kansas or Califor- 
nia by this time ; being a woman, I ought to have look- 
ed for her in exactly the place it would seem natural 
for her to avoid. One thing is certain she loved 
young Moreland with an intensity beyond the strength 
of most women. I have had to do with natures like 
hers before where a powerful brain is subservient to a 
still more poAverful emotional force. She was proud, 
ambitious, discontented, with tastes and perceptions 
reaching up into a much higher sphere of life. Miss 
Sullivan would have made a magnificent heiress and 
pet daughter ; yet in love she would be humble, self- 
abnegating give all and count it nothing. It's a sad 
pity such a capacity for happiness should have brought 
only ruin." 

" If she had loved Henry, how could she, under any 
impulse of jealousy, have injured him ? She is terrible 
to me in any view of the case." 

" I do not know that she did injure him, or cause 
him to be injured. Circumstances are against her. But 
I am far from believing her the guilty person. Yet I 
am exceedingly anxious to have a quiet interview with 
her. I must see her and talk with her alone. She is 
frightened now, and defiant. I shall soothe her mag- 
netize her will, as it were and draw from her the 
truth. Every atom of knowledge which she has, in any 
way connected with Henry Moreland, I shall draw 
from her, and consolidate into one mass, to be used for 
or against her. If you have the reliance upon my judg- 
ment which I flatter myself you have, Richard, you 
will not object to my seeing Miss Sullivan alone, and 
deciding, upon that interview, whether there are causes 
for her arrest, as a party to the murder." 

" I shall not object. It is your privilege to see her 



190 TOE DEAD LETTER. 

alone ; and I have the utmost confidence in yon. I sup- 
pose Mr. Argyll and Henry'* father would be tin- proper 
persons to decide upon the arreM and prosecution." 1 

"Of course. Ami if, after I have talked with her, I 
can elicit no facts to warrant her leing put on trial tor 
her life, I shall not give her her liberty until I have 
consulted both families, laying all ray evidence 1 
them. They will be loth to begin a prosecution which 
they can not sustain, even if they have an ////y/-.<.v/"/i 
of guilt. By the way, Kedtield, the-e impressions are 
curious things! Supposing I should tell you tin 
persons who, without one particle of proof of any kind, 
have an impression that you are the guilty man." 

I arose from the sofa, looking at him, not. knowing 
whether or not to knock him down. 

"Don't 'slay me with a look '," he said, laughing 
quietly. "I don't say that /have any Midi inner n De- 
lation. And I did not say this, either, to hurt your 
feelings. I did it to save them. For, if I mi>takc not, 
the same person who confided hi* impic*Mon> to me, 
has recently been gradually confiding them toothers. 
The very thought, the very possibility, OOOC eiitertain- 
ed, or half-entertained and driven away again, as an 
unwelcome gUCSt, still lias its injurious influence. You 
are standing upon an earthquake, Richard you may 
be swallowed up any instant." 

- I .-- 

" Yes. I have detected the premonitory ruml. 
I have said this only to warn you, that you may I.e 
ready for self-deli-: 

"I scorn to deli-iid my.M'lf: Defend myself. f,,rs,H.th ! 
against what ? Who has dared to insinuate ihat 
thought against me \\hidi von have allowed voiir>df 
to echo? lint I need not a-k it i* my natural foe, 
James Argyll. He hates me as t he raitl<>nakc hate* 
the black-ash tree!" 



191 

" Well, the dislike is mutual. Will you deny that 
you, too, have had a thought mind, I say a mere, 
floating thought that he may have instigated the 
deed ?" 

My conscious eye sunk before the steel-blue glance 
which pierced me. God knows, such a fear, such a be- 
lief, at times vague and shadowy, again vivid but brief 
as lightning, had again and again troubled me. I 
have hinted at it once, when I said that I was glad 
that if James ever took money, unpei-mitted, from his 
uncle, he took it to waste at the gaming-table. Soon I 
raised my eyes. 

" If I have had such a suspicion, I have struggled 
against it ; I have never breathed it into mortal ear. 
He has sought to injure me in various ways ; I have 
wished to win and conciliate him ; to be friendly with 
him, for the sake of my regard for his relatives. As to 
taking a step to fix a blasting stigma upon him, with- 
out giving him a chance openly to efface it, I am inca- 
pable of it. You are at liberty to judge between us, 
Mr. Burton." 

" You know that I do not like him," answered my 
companion. " But no aversion which I may feel for 
him shall prevent my weighing all facts which come 
under my observation, with the utmost impartiality. I 
am on the right track, in this pursuit, and I shall follow 
it up to the dark end, though you, yourself, abandon 
it. Justice shall be meted out ! If the bolt strikes the 
loftiest head in all this aristocratic vicinity, it shall fall 
where it belongs." 

He left the sofa, walking up and down the corridor 
with a stern, thoughtful face. As for me, I sunk back 
on my seat, overwhelmed by the confirmation of a thou- 
sand times more than my worst fears. Suspicion of me 
was creeping like a shadow over the Argyll household. 
I had felt its approach long ago ; now my whole being 



192 THE DEAD LETTER. 

grew cold, freezing except one burning spasm of indig- 
nation which throbbed in my bn- 

As the gray dawn approached, the rain ceased. 
Morning was long in coming. As soon as it grew light 
enough to see, I heard the gardener cutting wood for 
the fire, and shortly after I walked over, at Mr. Burton's 
request, to ask for some breakfast for the woman and 
child. I will not describe the garrulous astonishment 
of the husband and wile upon my announcement that 
the ghost was cornered, and proved to be Leesy Sulli- 
van. Of course the evil omen of hearing children cry- 
ing was now explained, as well as the disappearance of 
a considerable quantity of flour, condiments and apples, 
which Mrs. Scott had charged to the rats. 

it went sorely against the inclination of formal, cor- 
rect Mrs. Scott, to furnish a comfortable 1> 
"such a jade as that seemed likely to prove ; behavin' 
in this style, which nobody on 'arth could account for ;" 
but the gratification of her feminine curiosity was some 
reward for the outrage to her sensibilities, and she went 
with great expedition to carry the desired refreshments 
to the prisoners. 

When we entered the attic, in the light of the rising 
sun, Miss Sullivan was sitting quietly on the edge of 
the mattresses, curling little Nora's flaxen hair around 
her fingers. An obstinate reticence marked her looks 
and actions ; she scarcely replied to any of Mrs. Scott's 
inquiries only, when the comfort of the child was con- 
cerned. For her she took some of the warm food and 
tea, quietly feeding the eager little girl, while we made 
a survey of her surroundings. 

I now ascertained that a small sky-light, hidden from 
outside view by tin- < himneys and ornamental work of 
the battlements, had given egress to the mysterious 
brightness which had hovered so frequently over the 
roof. The tenant of this great house had evidently 



ALONE WITH THE WOMAN. 193 

arranged herself for the winter. She had chosen the attic 
as a place of greatest safety, in the case of parties enter- 
ing the deserted dwelling for any purpose ; here she had 
brought a tiny charcoal-furnace, xised in the basement 
in summer-time for the purpose of heating smoothing- 
irons, which she supplied with fuel from the stock left 
over in the cellar. The provisions left in the house had 
served her wants equally well. It was evident that by 
the exercise of extreme care and vigilance, leaving the 
house only in the darkness of the night, she might 
have remained here for a considerable longer time un- 
disturbed in her novel seclusion, had not the light, 
which she had never ventured to burn until all was 
dark and silent in the little cottage, by chance first 
attracted the curiosity which led finally to discov- 
ery. 

Mr. Burton took a cup of tea and a roll, brought to 
him there; and then, at his request, he was left alone 
with the silent woman, who sat there with resolute 
brows and lips firmly closed, as if locked over her 
thoughts. 

" It will require all his diplomacy to wile her into a 
communicative mood," was my decision, as I took a 
parting glance at her face. I was chilled with my 
night's watching, and chilled more utterly by the Avords 
the detective had spoken to me as I watched ; I return- 
ed to the cottage-fire, sitting there three hours, in a 
painful reverie, answering almost at random the remarks 
of the housekeeper. 

At the close of the three hours, Mr. Burton came into 
the little dwelling, carrying Norah in his arms, who was 
stroking his cheek with her chubby hand, and followed 
by the sewing-girl, whose cheeks bore traces of tears, 
and whose hunted, defiant look had given place to a 
dejected, gentle expression. 

" Mrs. Scott, I want you to do me a kindness," he 
9 



194 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

said, in his authoritative, persuasive manner, to which 
people seldom thought it worth while to object. "I 
want you to take care of Miss Sullivan and this little 
cousin of hers, until I send them word they aix- wanted. 
It may be to-day, or not fora week. In the mean time, 
if you have any sewing to be done for yourself or lit- 
tle Johnny, she will be glad to help you." 

" She's welcome to stay, I'm sure," said the woman, 
in a tone not quite so sure. 

" Thank you. I knew I could ask a favor of you. 
Johnny, come here, and make Miss Nora's acquaintance. 
I'm ready, Richard, if you are, to return to the village. 
Lenore will wonder what has become of us. Good- 
morning, all." 

We walked away. 

" Are you not afraid to leave that girl unguarded, 
after all the trouble she has given 

" She will stay there ; she has promised me. If she 
chooses to run away, now, it is a matter of no conse- 
quence. I am perfectly, entirely convinced that she is 
innocent of any participation in the murder of Henry 
Moreland ; or any knowledge of the murder except, 
upon one point, I could use hrr testimony. 1 shall u'u e 
my opinion to Mr. Argyll, with my grounds for it ; it' 
be chooses to arrest hrr, S!R> will be there at the cot- 
tage. Richard, this aftair has gone as far as it can ! I 
Shall tell Mr. Argyll, to-<lay, that I have withdrawn 
from it that I give it up. Hut I am willing you 
should understand that I have not dropped it entirely 
that I shall still retain my interest in it still secretly 
pursue my investigations, which 1 believe I can earn- 
on to the best advantage if all parties believe that I 
have given the matter up. Are you satisfied ?" 

" If I am not, what difference does it make? It is 
not for me to dictate your course. I believe that you 
think it is the best one." 



DISMISSAL. 105 

" I do. So will yon some day, if we live to see the 
termination of this thing. In the mean time, I am your 
friend, Richard, whether I give any outward signs of 
friendship very soon or not. You are at liberty to de- 
vote yourself to the cause as ardently as ever and if 
ever you wish to consult me, you will find me what 
you now know me." 

I felt strangely as we walked along together. He 
talked as if he thought some change were coming as 
if things were to assume new shapes as if I were to 
need friendship, and yet as if he should be compelled 
to conceal his for mebehind a mask of coldness. I did 
not understand it. I felt half offended with him, and 
wholly disheartened. 

I dined with him at Mr. Argyll's. It was the last 
time I sat at that table. 

In the afternoon he had a private interview w T ith the 
family, from which 1 was excluded; and in the even- 
ing he returned to the city, taking with him Lenore, 
the last wave of whose hand was for James, her last 
kiss for Miss Argyll. 

The next morning Mr. Argyll informed me that he 
had resolved to make his nephew his partner in the 
practice of the law, and that I was at liberty to take 
advantage of any other opportunity I might have for- 
going into business for myself. His manner was cold ; 
he expressed no regrets for my probable disappoint- 
ment, caused by his own suggestions ; I could feel my- 
self dismissed from his friendship as well as his .office. 
I would not ask why. My tongue grew dry as ashes 
when I thought of attempting it. Mr. Burton had 
given me the clue to the feelings which prompted this 
rupture of a life-long friendship it was such as to for- 
bid any questions. No explanations could be made 
nothing could obliterate the memory of so deadly a 
wrong as they were committing upon me. The golden 



106 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

bowl of friendship was broken at the fountain the 
waters spilled upon the ground. 

I told him that I had contemplated a visit to my 
mother, which I would take this opportunity to make. 
I might find what I wished for, in the way of lui-i. 
in the vicinity of my father's former home; when, with 
formal thanks for his past kindness (which I was men- 
tally vowing I would find some means to repay), and 
begging him to trouble himself not at all about my 
fortunes, I bowed myself from the office where 
I had spent so much of the last three years of my 
life. 

Blind, dizzy, cold, I went to my boarding-house to 
pack my trunks. 

Before I went to bed, my lew arrangements were 
completed. My clothes, books, tb few little articles 
of ta-le, or gifts of friends, allowable in one small 
rented room, were easily put away in their traveling re- 
ceptacle. Hut, as for the rest! for the wealth which 
my heart had silently garnered during the golden har- 
vc-t of youth where was it? Swept away as by a 
mighty wind. 

I slept some, for I was thoroughly worn out ly my 
emotions, no le?s than by my recent vigils ; but tho 
earliest morning found mo awake. I was to leave at 
noon ; I had many pleasant acquaintances in the village, 
from whom I ought not to have parted without a fare- 
well call; but all these small pleasures and romh-us 
of life were swept aside, as sand upon my path. I had 
nothing to do, all the tedious morning, save to 
pretend to eat my breakfast, until the hour which I 
had set in my thought* for saying good-by to tho 
girls. 

I would not go away without seeing them ; if there 
wa any accusation in their eyes I would confront it. 
And then, I did not believe that Eleanor would do me 



HOKBOR. 197 

an injustice. Blue-eyed, just, gentle as was her char- 
acter, sAe, at least, was grieved for me believed in me. 
I did not admit to myself how much comfort I drew 
from this faith, until I was startled from it. My bag- 
gage was dispatched ; my watch told eleven ; I passed 
the house on the way to the -cars, giving myself a few 
minutes for this farewell. As I knocked at the door, 
one of the servants opened it. I sent her to ask Miss 
Argyll if she would come down to say good-by, before 
I left on n\y visit to my mother ; and Mary I would 
like to see her also. 

While I waited for them, I stepped into the dear fa- 
miliar parlors and library, mutely taking my leave of 
them, with all their mingled associations. Presently 
the messenger returned : 

" Miss Argyll sent her farewell ; she could not see 
Mr. Redfield that morning." 

" Where is she ?' 

" In the breakfast-room, looking at her flowers." 

I started for the room in a wild tumult of anger and 
passion, resolved to make her confess the reason of this 
treatment. Surely, three years of an intimacy like 
ours, gave me the right. In three minutes I confronted 
her where she stood, in the door between the breakfast- 
room and conservatory, like a statue draped in crape. 

" Eleanor !" 

She shrunk back ; she held up her hands with an ex- 
pression of horror. My God ! that look in Eleanor's 
eyes was enough to kill me. I turned away as hastily 
as I had come. As I stumbled along the passage, half 
blind with the terrible surging and throbbing of the 
blood through me, a soff pair of arms fell about my 
neck, a cheek wet with tears was pressed to mine it 
was Mary. 

" Never mind what they say about you, Richard," 
she sobbed. " I don't believe one word of it not one 



198 THE DEAD LETTER. 

word ! I never shall. I am your friend. I love you ; 
indeed I do. I do not want you to go away," and she 
ki'M'-.l me twice or thrice. 

I took the sweet face in my cold hands, looked into 
the brimming eyes, hastily kissed the blushing cheek 
" God bless you, Mary," said I, and was gone. 



EXD OF PART FIRST. 



THE DEAD LETTER 



PAET II. 



PART II 



CHAPTER I. 

THE LETTEE. 

THE reader can now understand why it was that I 
turned cold with excitement as I sat there in the dead- 
letter office, holding the time-stained epistle in my 
hand. Every woi'd burned itself into my brain. Ob- 
scure as it was non-committal directed to an unknown 
person of a neighboring village 1 yet felt assured that 
those vague hints had reference to the sinful tragedy 
which had occurred October 17th, 1857. Here was 
placed in my hands at last ! a clue to that mystery 
which I had once sworn to unravel. Yet, how slender 
was the clue, which might, after all, lead me into still 
profouncler labyrinths of doubt and perplexity ! As 1 
pondered, it seemed to break and vanish in my fingers. 
Yet, I felt, in spite of this, an inward sense that I held 
the key which was surely to unlock the a^cful secret. I 
can never rightly express the feelings which, for the 
first few moments, overpowered me. My body was icy 
cold, but my soul stung and stirred me as with fire, 
and seemed to rise on " budding wings " of flame with 
conviction of a speedy triumph which was to come 
after long suffering. I arose, clutched my hat, and 
went forth from the Department, to return to it no 
more, for the present. Half the night I sat in my room 
at my boarding-place, looking at that letter on the 
table before me. 

Before I proceed further with its history, I will give, 
in a few words, the brief, monotonous record of my life, 
since I was driven driven is the word you must use, 
8* 



200 THE DEAD LETTER. 

Richard, haughty and sensitive though you may be 
from the friendship and presence of the Argylls, and 
from my prospects of A long-cherished settlement in 
life. I made the visit to my mother. She was sli<c-k -d 
at the change in me, and grieved that I withheld my 
confidence from her. But, I did not feel in a confiding 
mood. The gentleness of my nature had been hard- 
ened ; I was bitter, sneering, skeptical ; not from my 
own mother would I accept the sympathy which my 
chilled heart seemed no longer to crave. Only one 
thing saved me from utter loathing of humanity, and 
that was the memory of Mary ' tare, a* >he had sought 
me at parting. In those s \vi-ot eya we:v tru>t and 
love; tho tears which streamed down and foil upon hoi- 
bosom, the quiver of her lip, the sobs and fond words, 
attested to the sorrow with which she had beheld my 
banishment. 

Of course my mother was surprised to hear that I 
had left Blankville, with no intention of returning to 
it ; that the long-understood partnership was not to bo 
entered into. But, she did not press me lor explana- 
tions. She waited for me to toll her all, patiently ; 
ministering to my health and comfort, meanwhile, as a 
widoutd mother will minister to an only son with a 
tondern<-!.s only less than that of heaven, because it is 

arth. 

iv I had been at home A fortnight, the unnatural 
tension of my mind and ner\e< produced a sure result 
a reliction took place, and I foil s'u-k. It was in the 
Softer mood which rame o\er mo, AS I was coin ah-M-ing 
from this illness, that I finally told my mother all tho 
dreadful story of the influences which had broken up 
my connection with the Argylls. Her grief for me, 
her indignation against my enemy or cm 
what might have been expected. I could hardly ro- 
ptrain her from starting at once for Blankville, to stand 



A MOTHER'S LOVE. 201 

before her old friend, the friend of my father, and ac- 
cuse him, face to face, of the wrong he had done her 
boy. But, out of this I persuaded her. I asked her 
if she did not see that the wrong was irreparable? I 
could not forgive it. It did not admit of being talked 
about ; let the cloud drop between them and us ; our 
paths were henceforth apart. To this she finally 
yielded ; and, if there could have been any balm to my 
wounded pride and still more deeply wounded affec- 
tions, I should have found it in the enhanced, touching, 
almost too-perfect tenderness with which my parent 
sought to make up to me that which I had lost. 

For a few weeks I abandoned myself to ,her healing 
attentions. Then I set myself resolutely to find work 
both for hands and mind. My mother was not without 
influential friends. As I have said, my fortunes were 
somewhat nipped by my father's untimely death, but 
our family and associations were among the best. We 
had a relative in power at Washington. To him I ap- 
plied for a clerkship, and received, in answer, the situa- 
tion I was filling, at the time when that dead-letter 
came so strangely into my hands. 

It may be thought improbable that I should abandon 
the profession for which I had studied with so much 
zeal. But, the very memory of that zeal, and of the 
hopes which had stimulated it, now gave me a dtslike 
to the law. I requited both change of scene and of 
pursuits. The blow dealt at my heart had stunned my 
ambition, also. To one of my temperament, aspira- 
tions, acquisitiveness, all the minor passions and pur- 
suits of life are but steps leading up the hillside to the 
rose-crowned summit, where love sits smiling under 
the eye of heaven. And I, being for the time at least, 
blasted prematurely, was no more myself, but was to 
myself like a sti-anger within my own sanctuary. I 
went into the dead-letter office, and commenced my 



202 THE DEAD LETTER. 

routine of breaking seals and registering contents, as 
if 1 had been born for that business. I was a rapid 
worker, quiet, and well-thought-of by my a^oeiatcs, 
who deemed me a little cold and skeptical, a trihY re- 
served, very steady for so young a i'ello\v, and an effi- 
cient clerk who thoroughly earned his salary. That 
was all they knew of 1 lie-hard I led field. And in those 
days I did not know much more about myself. The 
months had worn away, one after the. other, with a 
dreary coldness. In the summer I struggled through 
the sulVocatin<_r dust; in the winter I picked my way 
through the disgusting mud, to and fro, from my lodg- 
ings to the office buildings; that was about all the. 
change which the seasons brought to me, whom once 
the smell of spring violets tilled with pungent delight, 
and the odor of June roses made happy as a god on 
Olympus. 

Half thr> night I sat brooding over that l>i i: 
lion, so precious to me, yet so loathsome. The longer 
I pondered its words the less vivid grew my hope of 
making any triumphant use of it for the detection of 
the two guilty persons the one who wrote it, and the 
one to whom it was addressed. I might lay it 1 

' rgyll, but he might not feel, as I did, that it had 
any connection with the murder, neither \\as there any- 
thing.to prove but that the missive might ha\e been 
directed tome. Indeed, .Mr. Aru'yjl might well inquire 
how I could pretend that it should ha\e reached me 
through the routine of the dead-letter department, alter 
all this stretch of time very nearly t \\ 

This was a matter which pu/./lcd me exceedingly. 
In the ordinary course of art'm--. ,t \\.-nM, if not 
claimed, have been forwarded to NVa-hin^ton : 
months after its reception at Peekskill, and have long 
ago been consigned to the waste-basket and the ti 
The hand of an overruling Providence seemed to be 



AROUSED FROM APATHY. 203 

moving the men in this terrible game. At that hour I 
recognized it, and felt a solemn conviction that, sooner 
or later, the murderer would be checkmated. It was 
this assurance, more than any evidence contained in 
the letter, which gave me hope that it would eventually 
be the instrument of punishment to the guilty. I re- 
membered the vow I had once made to my soul, never 
to rest in the peace of my own pursuits, until I had 
dragged the slayer of the innocent into the awful pre- 
sence of Justice. That vow I had neglected to fulfill 
to the uttermost, partly because of the injury which 
had been done to my self-love, and also because the cir- 
cumstance which had attached suspicion to me, in the 
eyes of those interested, had made it dangerous for me 
to move in a matter where all my motives were miscon- 
strued. But now that Fate had interposed in this sin- 
gular manner, in my behalf and in that of Truth, I 
took fresh courage. I was fully startled from my 
apathy. That night I wrote my resignation to the 
Department, gathered up my few effects again, and the 
next morning found me on the way to New York. 

My first purpose was to consult Mr. Burton. I had 
not seen him since the day when we parted in Blank- 
ville ; I only knew, by accident, that he was still a res- 
ident of New York, having casually heard his name 
mentioned in connection with a case which had brought^ 
some detectives on to Washington only a few weeks 
previous. 

I had never forgiven or understood the part he had 
played in that last interview with the Argylls. I re- 
membered the assurance he had given me of friendship, 
but I did not believe that he had shown any friendship 
for me, in that consultation with the relatives, or the 
results would not have been so disastrous to me. 
Nevertheless, I felt a confidence in him ; he was tho 
man for the emergency, and to him I would take the 



204 THE DEAD LETTER. 

le.tter. I thought it quite probable, that in the multi- 
plicity of !K>\v interests, the circumstances which lia.l 
once brought ns so much together had laded from liis 
mind, and that I should have tu reawaken his recollec- 
tion of the details. 

On the morning ai'ter my arrival in New V. .;]<, I 
consulted the directory, and finding that Mr. Hurton 
Still resided in Twenty-third street, 1 called at the 
house at the earliest admissible hour. 

While I was handing my card to the servant, his 
master came out of the library at the end of the hall, 
and hastening forward, shook me heartily by the hand. 
His joyous tones were better evidence of his pleasure 
at M-j'ing me, than even his words, which were cordial 
enough. 

" I heard your voice, Richard," he said, " and did not 
wait for you to be ushered in with the formalities. 
Welcome, my friend;" hi- expression was as it' he had 
said t% Welcome, my son." 

He le.l me into tin- library, and placing me in an :irm- 
ehair, sat down opposite me, looking at me with the 
woll-rerncmbercd piercing shafts of those steel-blue 
eyes. After Inquiring about my health, etc., he s;iid, 
suddenly, 

" Y>ii have news." 

" You arc ri'^ht, Mr. Hurt on else I should not have 
been here. I suppose yon arc aware that I ha\e been 
a clerk in the; dead-letter office for the last c'u ; 
months ?" 

"I was aware of it. I ne\-r intended to let you 
slip out of the numbered rosary of m\ friends-, and 
IOM- you so entirely as not even to know your where- 
about 

"Day before yesterday this letter arrived at the 
Office, and I chanced to be the clerk who opened it.'' 

I handed him the missive. He examined the envelope 



"ALL THINGS ARE PROVIDENTIAL." 205 

attentively, before unfolding the sheet within ; and as 
he continued to hold it in his hand, and gaze at it, one 
of those wonderful changes passed over his countenance 
that I had remarked on some previous important occa- 
sions. His practical intelligence seized upon the date, 
the post-office marks, the hasty direction, and made 
the contents of the letter his own, almost, before he 
read it. For some moments he pondered the outside, 
then drew forth the letter, perused it with one swift 
glance, and sat holding it, gazing at it, lost in thought, 
and evidently forgetful of my presence. A stern pal- 
lor settled gradually over his usually placid face ; at 
last he looked up, and seeing me, recalled his surround- 
ings to his recollection. 

" It is sad to be made to feel that such creatures live 
and flourish," he said, almost despondingly ; " but," as 
his face brightened, " I can not say how glad I am 
to get hold of this. It partially explains some things 
which I have already found out. The chance which 
threw this document into your hands was a marvelous 
one, Richard." 

" However simple the explanation may prove to be, 
I shall always regard it as Providential." 

" All things are Providential," said my companion, 
" none less, and none more so. Causes will have their 
effects. But now, as to the writer of this I am glad 
I have a specimen of the villain's handwriting ; it will 
enable me to know the writer when I see him." 

" How so, Mr. Burton ?" 

" Because I have a very good picture of him, now, 
in my mind's eye. He, is about thirty years of age, 
rather short and broad-shouldered, muscular ; has dark 
complexion and black eyes ; the third finger of his right 
hand has been injured, so as to contract the muscles 
and leave it useless. He has some education, which he 
has acquired by hard study since he grew up to be his 



206 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

o\vn master. His childhood AV.TS passed in ignorance, 
in the midst of the | .-iations; and his own 

nature is almost utterly depraved, lit- is bad, from 
instinct, inheritance and bringing-up ; and now, our 
blessed Redeemer, himself, would hardly find good 
enough in him to promise n hope of ultimate salvation. 
It is curious that he should ever have seen lit to >tudv, 
so as to acquire even the smattering of knowledge 
which he has. He must have been led" into it by some 
powerful passion. If I could decide what that passion 
was, I might have a key to unlock the irate into some 
other matt. 

<l at the speaker in astonishment as he rapidly 
pronounced the above analysis of the personal appear- 
ance and character of the writer. 

"Do you know him ?'' I asked. 

" I do not know his name, and I have never met him. 
All the acquaintance I have with him, I have made 
through the medium of his chirography. It is suHicient 
for me; I can not mistake," then, observing my puz- 
zled and incredulous look, he smiled, as he a. I. led, M I'.y 
the way, Iti'-hard, you are not aware of mv accoin- 
pli>hment in the art of reading men and women from 
a specimen of their handwriting. It is one of my 
greatest aids in the prolix-ion to which I have- devoted 
,f. The results I obtain sometimes astonish my 
fiiends. IJut, I assure you, there is nothing man clous 
in them. Patient study and unwearied observation, 
with naturally quick perceptions, are the only witch- 
craft 1 use. With modei-:ile natural ahilit'n I, I 
that any other pi'rson could e<|iial me in this art (black 
art, some of my acpiaintances regard it,) by Diving 
the same time to it that a musician would to DUMttt 1 a" 
instrument." t 

"I do not know about that, Mr. Burton. I guess it 
would take a mind of the singular compot>ition of your 



A STRAXGE AET. 207 

own to make much out of an art with no rules and no 
foundations." 

"It has its rtiles, for me. But as proof is better 
than argument, show me any letters or scraps of writing 
you may have about you. I would like to satisfy you, 
before we proceed further, for I do not wish you to 
feel that you are working with a crack-brained indi- 
vidual, who is riding a hobby at your expense." 

I emptied my inside coat-pocket of its contents, 
among which were several letters one from my mother, 
a note from my uncle in Washington, an invitation from 
an old college-chum to attend his wedding in Boston, 
and two or three business epistles from casual acquaint- 
ances one, I remember, an entreaty from a young man 
to get him something to do in that magnetic center of 
all unemployed particles Washington. Of these, I 
revealed only to him the superscription and signature, 
with, perhaps, some unimportant sentence, which would, 
in no way, of itself, betray the characters or pursuits 
of the writers. I need not describe my surprise when, 
in eacli instance, he gave a careful and accurate de- 
scription of the age, appearance, habits, profession and 
mental qualities of the person whose handwriting he 
had examined. 

I could hardly credit my own senses ; there must be 
some " fiocus-poous" about it, as in the tricks which jug- 
glers play with cards. But my respect for the earnest- 
ness of my companion's pursuits, and the indubitable 
nature of his proof, did not allow me to doubt any length 
of time. I became a believer in his facts, and I give 
these facts to my readers, at the risk of seeing the plain, 
sensible nose of the majority turned up with an expres- 
sion of skepticism, mortifying to me. Mr. Burton's 
character is a real one, and the truth of his wonderful 
achievements will become history. 

The terrible interest of the subject which had brought 



208 THE DEAD LETTER. 

us together did not permit us to spend ranch time in 
these interesting but irrelevant experiments. We dis- 
cussed the past and present. Mr. I'.iirton assured me 
that he had never, for a day, lost sight of the case 
that his interest in it had deepened, rather than 
cned ; that he had not been idle during all this long 
period ; but that he had already gathered up a fact or 
two of some importance, and had been on the point of 
Bending for me, once or twice. lie had n trained, wait- 
ing for some lights to culminate, and "now, he was 
glad enough to get hold of that letter." 

He informed me that Leesy Sullivan was living quietly 
in the city, sub-Ming mostly upon donations from him- 
self, she being too far gone with consumption to exert 
herself much with the needle. The child was with her, 
healthy and pretty. 

I made no inquiries after James Argyll, but he told 
me that the young man came frequently to the city ; 
that, for a while, he had seemed dispirited, and gambled 
desperately, but that lately he was looking and behav- 
ing better. 

" It is my impression," added he, " that he is about 
to marry one of his cousins probably the youngest. 
And as to his bad habits, I caused him to understand, 
indirectly, that if they wen- not reformed, he should be 
convicted of them, before his uncle. This I did (after 
I became convinced that he would marry one of the 
young ladies) out of compassion to the family." 

My head drooped on my hand. It was long since I 
had any tidings of the Argylls death could hardly 
have created a more barren space between us. Yet, 
now that I heard the names of the girls mentioned, a 
Hood of old emotions broke over mi-, beneath wliii-h I 
struggled, half-suffocated. Keen pain shot through my 
heart at the idea of Mary, that innocent, most sweet 
and lovable girl, becoming the wife of James. I felt 



MEMORIES. 209 

as if it ought to be prevented, yet how could I inter- 
fere ? Why should I wish to ? I recalled the hour 
when she had flown to me had said, " I believe in 
you, Richard; ./love you !" and I knew that I had put 
a construction upon the tearful, passionate words of her 
last avowal, which was, after all, not warranted. I had 
feared that she did really love me, and that, in the last 
moment of sorrow and trouble, her feelings had betray- 
ed themselves to her own comprehension and I had 
felt a hope that it was not so. My own unanswered 
passion my lonely, unmated life had taught me sym- 
pathy ; and I was not so utterly selfish as to have my 
personal vanity tickled with the idea that this young 
creature loved me, who did not love her, except truly as 
a sister. 

Yet now, when hearing that James had turned from 
Eleanor to her, I felt a pang of pity a wish that she 
might rather have loved me than him whose cold, de- 
ceitful bosom could never be a safe shelter for a wo- 
man as affectionate as Mary. With this regret I felt a 
triumph that Eleanor had remained unassailable on the 
sublime and solitary hight of her sorrow. It was what 
I expected of her. I gloried in her constancy to the 
dead. I had loved her for this noble beauty of her 
nature, and should have been disappointed had the test 
found her wanting in any of the attributes with which 
my worship had invested her. She had done me a 
w'rong too cruel for me to complain about ; but I would 
rather, still, that she would wrong me than herself. 

Lastly, Mr. Burton assured me that he had tidings 
of the five-hundred-dollar bill which had been stolen 
from Mr. Argyll's desk. This was, indeed, important, 
and I showed by my looks how deeply I was absorbed 
in the particulars. That bill had come into the hands 
of Wells, Fargo & Co., about six months after the rob- 
bery, having been sold for specie to their agent in Call- 



210 TUB DEAD LETTER. 

fornia, and forwarded to them along with the other 
sums which they were constantly receiving. At least, 
he had taken it for granted that it was the same Mil, it 
being one of the two which left the city of N'cw York 
the week of the robbery; the other he had traced to 
St Louis, and ascertained that no possible suspicious 
circumstances attached to it. 

Wells, Fargo & Co. had given him every aoi-tanee 
in their power to discover who had sold that bill totho 
California branch of their house; but an answer had 
been returned from there that the person who disposed 
of it was a stranger, on his way to the mining regions, 
Avhoin they had never seen before or since, and whose 
name they had not taken. The clerk who transacted 
the brief business with him, had no distinct recoiled ion 
of him, except that he was rather a thick-set man, with 
an unpleasant expression doubtless one of the "hard 
" so frequent in the precincts of San Francisco. 

Of course, it was clear to us two, who sat in com- 
pany with the dead-letter, that the tive-hundrcd-dollar 
bill was a part of the sum referred to by the writer ; 
that it had come out of .Mr. Argyll's dok. and that it 
was blood-money paid fur a murder; and the rerei\ er 
was this person who, in the letter, so explicitly declared 
his intention of fleeing to California. We were much 
excited in the presence of these bold facts. In our en- 
thusiasm, then, it scenic. 1 , i, : , ], ;iM d . 
the continent and lay it upon the guilty. We scarcely 
realized the long and wearisome pursuit to which we 
were doomed the slight clue which we had to the in- 
dividual \\hose deeds were yet SO patent to us. 

At this revelation of conspiracy, my mi: 
searched about for the accessory, and again settled it- 
self upon Miss Sullivan. It did sc,. m to me that she 
had thrown a glamour over the usually clear si-jlit of 
Air. Burton; so that 1 resolved to keep a separate 



THE OLD FEIEKTX . 211 

watch- which should not be influenced by his decisions. 
While I was thinking of this, Mr. Burton was walk- 
ing about the floor. Suddenly he stopped before me 
and looked into mine Avith those vivid eyes, so full of 
power, and said, as confidently as if a vision had re 
vealed it to him, 

"I have now made out all the meaning of the letter. 
In the first place, it is written ' by contraries ' that is, 
it means just the contrary of what it says. The con- 
tract was fulfilled. The price was expected, the emi- 
gration decided upon. The bright day was a i-ainy 
night ; the picture taken was a human life. And, don't 
you see it, Richard ? the old friend was the hiding- 
place of the instrument of death, after which the accom- 
plice is directed to look. That instrument is the broken 
tooth-pick. It was secreted in the pocket of the old 
friend. Now, who or what is this old friend ? Rich- 
ard, didn't Leesy affirm she saw a man descending from 
the old oak tree at the right of the Argyll mansion, out 
the eveniug of the murder ?" 

"She did." 

" Then that is it. I want to know no more. The 
arms are the arms of that old oak. Unless it has been 
removed, which is not probable, since this letter was 
never received, the broken knife or dagger (of which I 
have the point which was taken from the wound), will 
be found in some hollow on the left side of that oak." 

I gazed at him in astonishment ; but he, unconscious 
of my wonder, sat down, with a relieved, almost happy, 
expression. 



212 THE DEAD LETTEB, 



CHAPTER II. 

OUR VISITS. 

So engrossed were we by our plans, Avhich we were 
laboring to get into shape, that we forgot the passing 
hours and the demands of appetite. It was long past 
the lunch hour when a servant appeared to ask if ho 
should not bring in the tray, having waited in vain for 
the usual summons. With its appearance Lenorc came- 
in, the same lovely, sylph-like little creature, but look- 
ing rather less fragile than when I saw her last. At 
the sight of me, her color went and came one instant 
she hesitated, then approached and gave me her hand, 
with a smile and kiss. Her lather had already told .-f 
her having made two or three visits to the Argyll man- 
sion within the time of my :I!>M nee ; and I attrilmte.l 
her blushes, upon meeting me. to her frank heart ac- 
cusing her of the disparaging thoughts she had enter- 
tained of me. The subtle induence of James had 
doubtless, without any n< < -Mty for putting the ide:i 
into word*, warned her against me as a had man ; luit 
now as she looked at me, she was sorry lor what she 
had felt, and disposed to renew her old friendship. 

Before lunch was concluded, Mr. Burton fell into a 
reverie, which he ended by saying, 

We must have the assistance of Lenore, if she can 
give us any." 

I felt reluctant to see the child placed again in that 
unnatural trance ; but other considerations were even 
weightier than our fears for the shock to her nervous 
system ; and after she had chatted a while with Bfl 
had sung for nSe, Mr. Burton subjected her to the ex- 
periment. It had been so long since he had exercised 



"ALL is DARK AND UNCERTAIN." 213 

his power over her, that it required a greater effort 
than on the former occasion which I witnessed, to place 
her in the desired condition. He, however, finally 
succeeded perfectly. The dead-letter was placed in her 
hands, when we observed her shrink as if a serpent had 
glided over her lap ; but she did not throw it down, as 
she seemed moved to do. 

" What do you see, Lenore ?" 

" It is too dark to see. A lamp shines across the 
walk, and I see a man dropping the letter in the box. 
He is muffled up so that I can not tell about his face ; 
he steals up and goes off again very quickly." 

" Follow him, Lenore." 

" It is too dark, father. I am lost in the streets. 
Oh ! now I have overtaken him again ; he walks so 
fast he is short and thick he looks as if he were 
afraid of something. He will not pass the police-officer, 
but crosses the street, and keeps in the shadow. Now 
we are at the ferry it is the Fulton Ferry I know it 
well. Oh, dear ! the water rises and the wind blows 
it is getting morning, but it rains so and the water 
is so wild I can not make my way on to the boat." 

" Don't be discouraged, my child. I would give 
much to have you follow him across the river, and tell 
me at what house he stops." 

" The wind blows so," continued Lenore, pitifully ; 
" all is dark and uncertain. I have missed him I do 
not know him from others." 

" Try again, my darling. Look well at the let- 
ter." 

" All is dark and uncertain," she repeated, in a vague 
tone. 

" It is useless," exclaimed Mr. Burton, in a burst of 
disappointment ; " it has been too long since the letter 
was penned. The personality of the writer has de- 
parted from it. If she had only been able to pursue 



214 THE DEAD LETTER. 

him to his haunts, our investigations in that vicinity 
might have richly repaid us." 

Finding it impossible to get any more information, 
from the chilil, she was relieved from her trance, stimu- 
lated with a glass of cordial, and sent up to take a 
siesta before -the hour for dinner. Scarcely had she 
left the library before I sprung to my feet, exclaiming, 

"Good heavens, how easy! and here I have never 
thought of it." 

" What is easy ?" 

" To ascertain who is the John Owen who calls for 
tlu-e letters at Peekskill. Of course why, what a 
fool I am !" 

"I am afraid you will not find it so easy. People 
carrying on a correspondence for such a purpose, do not 
come forward openly tor their letters ami this was :v 
good while ago and it is quite possible this may I.e. 
the only mi--ive e\i-r sent, through the mail, to that 
address and this, evidently, was never called for." 

At least, it is worth inquiring into," I added, less 
triumphantly. 

" Of course it is. We wish, also, to ascertain how 
the letter came dr.-.gging along to Washington two 
years, nearly, behind its time. I pnp.,se that we start 
,>kill by the early morning train." 
it, even until morning, seemed too tardy for 
my mood. But as it was now i'..nr o'elobk, and I had 
no right to ask the detective to resign his dinner and 
evening comfort, I made no objection to the time. And, 
in truth, the time sped more swiftly than I expected J 
we had Still so much to discuss. Dinner came and 
the hour of retiring followed before we had matured 
our course of action. We were to go to Peekskill and 
learn all possible about John Owen. If we gained no 
important information there, we were to go on, in the 
evening, to Blankville, to enter, under cover of tha 



AT THE WORK AFRESH. 215 

darkness, the lawn of the Argyll house, and secure the 
broken knife or dagger, which, we belio,ved, we should 
find secreled in a certain oak upon the premises. This 
we wished to do without the knowledge of the family, 
for two reasons: the smaller one of which was, that I 
did not wish my visit to be made known, and the larger, 
that we both were cei'tain we could prosecute our plans 
more successfully if the friends knew nothing of our 
efforts. Then, if we still failed to discover the accom- 
plice, we were to sail for California. 

The reader may see that we were set upon the ac- 
complishment of our purposes by the willingness with 
which we gave time, money and mind to our object. 
I had first proposed the visi*. to California, avowing my 
intention to make it, when Mr. Burton had surprised 
me by offering to be my companion. This was a sac- 
rifice which I could not have asked or expected of him ; 
but he would not allow me to view it in that light, 
saying, with pleasant peremptoriness, that Lenore need- 
ed a sea-voyage, and he had been thinking of taking 
one on her account. He would make it a pleasure-tour, 
as well as one of business, " and then," with a laugh 
which would have been satirical if it had not been so 
frank " he was afraid my mission would not be so 
successful, if undertaken alone." And I had answered 
him that I realized my own inefficiency, as compared 
with his talent and experience all I had to encourage 
me was the devotion with which I undertook my work 
to that, alone, I trusted to insure me some reward. 
But if he really were willing to go with me, I should 
feel almost elated. 

We were at Peekskill the next day in good season. 
We found the same postmaster in service who had been 
in the office at the time the dead-letter arrived there. 
When Mr. Burton I lounging carelessly in the back- 
ground showed the envelope and inquired how it had 
10 



216 TUB DEAD LETTER. 

occurred that it had boon forwarded to the Department 
ot this late hour, the official showed a little embarrass- 
ment, as inferring that he was about to be taken to task 
for a neglect of duty by some indignant individual. 

"I will tell you how it happened, Mr. Owen," .-aid 
he, "if yon' iv tin- person addressed on that envelope. 
You never cauie for the letter, and before the expiration 
of the time required by law for forwarding it to \Va>h- 
ington, it got slipped into a crack, and was never dis- 
covered till about a fortnight ago. You see, our place 
here wasn't just the thing for .in office ; it never did suit, 
and this month, I finally had new boxes and shelves 
put in, and the room fixed up. In tearing down the 
old fixings, several letters were discovered which had 
slipped into a crack between the shell' ami wall. This 
<ie of them. I thought, ' belter late than never,' 
though at first I had a mind to throw them into the 
stove. I hope, sir, the loss of the letter hasn't put you 
to any very great inconvcnie: 

" It was of some importance," answered my compan- 
ion, in a commonplace tone, "and I'm not sorry, even 
yet, to have recovered it, as it settles a matter I had 
been in doubt about. My man nm-t have been very 
negligent; I certainly sent him for the letter. Don't 
you remember a young man, a coachman, coming for 
my letters ?" 

k - lie never came but twice, to my knowledge," an- 
swered the postmaster, giving a glance of curiosity at 
the speaker. " I wondered who it was tin \ were for 
not being any one that I knew and I know mostly 
everybody in the district. Traveling through our town, 
perhaps ?" 

" Yes, I was a stranger, who merely passed two or 
three tiroes through your village, stopping on business. 
My usual address is New York. That coachman was 
lured at the next village to drive me about the country 



"A SMALLISH FELLOW?" 217 

a few days. I have nearly forgotten him. I -would 
like to call him to an account for some of his conduct 
which was not satisfactory. Can you describe his per- 
sonal appearance ? though, I suppose, you could not 
have taken any particular notice of him." 

" It was evening on both occasions of his calling. 
He was muffled up about the lower part of the face, 
and his cap pulled down. I couldn't tell you a thing 
about him, indeed, except that he had black eyes. If 
I'm not mistaken, he had black or dark eyes. I think 
I remember of their looking at me very sharp through 
the window here. But it was evening, and I shouldn't 
mind the circumstance at all if I had not wondered, at 
the time, who John Owen was. It's likely the fellow 
was a rogue he looked kind of slippery." 

I, listening apart to the conversation, longed to ask 
if this muffled driver was small and slender, for I was 
thinking of a woman. While I was studying how to 
propose the question to Mr. Burton, he continued, 

" A smallish fellow, if I remember rightly ? I really 
wish I had his name." 

" Can't say any thing more about it," was the reply 
of the postmaster. " I couldu't answer if he were large 
or small, white or black, except as to his eyes, which 
were about all I saw of him. If you want to find out 
about him, why don't you go to the livery-keeper who 
furnished your team to you ? Of course, his employer 
could tell you all you want to know." 

" That would be the most sensible course," answered 
the detective, with a laugh. " But, my good friend, it 

is considerably out of my way to go to S ; and I 

must leave on the train up, in half an hour. After all, 
the matter is not of so much importance. I had a cu- 
riosity to learn what had kept the letter so long on its 
travels. Good-day, sir." 

It never entered the official's thoughts to inquire how 



218 THE DEAD LETTER. 

we cnme in possession of a document which had not 
been returned from the Dead-Let:., -r IX'iurtment nt 
least, iu)t while we remained wit!) him though ho 
may afterward have puzzled his brains over the affair. 

As we did not wish to arrive in IJlankville until after 
dark, we had to leave the car- once again, and to get 
off at a little intermediate station, with half a dozen 
houses clustered about it ; and here we whiled away, 
as we best could, several tedious hours", whose dreari- 
ness was only partially soothed by the influences of 
such a supper as could be obtained in the small public- 
house attached to the depot. 

As the sun drew toward setting and the night ap- 
proached, a lierce restlessness thrilled along my n.- 
That peace if the dullness and sluggishness <>f my 
chilled feelings could be called peace into which I had 
forced myself for many months, was broken up. Tho 
mere fact of my nearness to the spot which had 
been so dear to me, overpowered me with strong at- 
tractions ; the force of habit and of memory was at 
work; and when, at twilight, the train stopped and 
took us up, my mind ran on before tlie iron-horse, and 
WM Ot the end of the little journey before the com- 
mencement. I 'pon arriving at Ulaukville, we descend- 
cd the rear car and walked up toward the village, with- 
out approaching the depot, as I was afraid the lamps 
might betray me to some former acquaintance. It was 
a mild evening, early in September, and I had no ex- 
cuse for mu filing up ; sol pulled my hat down over my 
quite sure that I should escape recognition, in tho 
dim moonlight, which, overblown by light, thin clouds, 
transfused the western sky. We walked about, in quiet 
parts of the village, until ten o'clock; and then, tho 
moon having set, we approached the Argyll mansion, 
along the well-remembered street. I know not if my 
companion guessed my disturbance, as I passed the 



THE SEARCH. 219 

office and came up in front of the lawn, black be- 
neath the starlight, with the shadows of its fine old 
trees. The past was not half so dead as I had got in 
the habit of believing it life is sweet and strong in 
the heart of youth, which will endure many blows be- 
fore it will cease to beat with the tremulous thrill of 
hope and passion. 

A bright light was shining from the windows of the 
parlor and several of the other rooms, but the hall-door 
was closed, and every thing was so quiet about the prem- 
ises that I did not believe I ran any risk in entering 
the gate and seeking out the monarch oak a, mighty 
tree, the pride of the lawn, which stood quite to one 
side from the central avenue which led up to the front 
portico, and only some thirty feet from the left corner 
of the mansion, which was, at times, almost touched 
by the reach of its outermost branches. We advanced 
together through the darkness, it being the understand- 
ing that, should any accident betray our visit, before 
its purpose was accomplished, I was to retreat, while 
Mr. Burton would boldly approach and make the ex- 
cuse of a call upon Mr. Argyll. My familiarity with 
the premises and my superiority in the art of climbing, 
made the duty of ascending the tree devolve upon me. 
While my companion stood on guard beneath, I drew 
myself up, carefully making my way through the night, 
out along to the " second branch to the left," feeling 
for the hollow which I knew existed for, in my more 
boyish days, I had left no possible point of the grand 
old tree unvisited. Not five minutes had elapsed since 
I began my search, before my fingers, pressing into the 
ragged cavity of the slowly-decaying limb, touched a 
cold object which I knew to be steel. My hand re- 
coiled with an instinctive shudder, but returned imme- 
diately to its duty, cautiously drawing forth a slender 
instrument of which I could not make out the precise 



220 THE DEAD LETTER. 

character. Upon raising my hca<l, after securing the 
object of our anxiety, my eyes fell upon a scene which 
held them fascinated for so loner a time that the patience 
of my friend at the foot of the tree must have keen. 
sorely tried. 

The windows on the side of the parlor looking on 
the left were both open, the chandeliers lighted, and 
from my airy eyrie in the tree, I commanded a full view 
of the interior. For a time I saw but one person. 
Sitting by a center-table, directly under the flood of 
light from the chandelier, was one of the sisters, read- 
ing a book. At first yes, for a full minute I thought 
it was Eleanor! Eleanor as she was, when the homage 
of my soul first went out toward her, like the exhala- 
tion of a flower to the sun as young, as blooming .-.ml 
radiant as she was In-fore the destroyer came the dew 
upon the lip, the light on the brow, the glory of health, 
youth and joy upon every feature and in every flow of 
her garments, from the luster of her hair to the glimmer 
of her silken slipper. 

"Can it be?" I murmured. "Is there such power 
of resuscitation in human vitality as this?" 

While I a>ked myself the question. I was undecided. 
(and \\ondeivd how I could have been mistaken 
for an instant), that this l>cautiful woman wa* Mary, 
grown so like her <>!,; luring the months of 

my absence, as to bo almost the counterpart of what 
Eleanor had leen. When I left her she \v:is a girl, 
half-child, half-woman, bright with the promi-e of rare 
sweetness; and now, in this brief summer time of fif- 
teen months BO rapid had the magic culmination 
she had expanded into t' n of all that is 

loveliest in her sex. A th<Mightfulness, caused, prob- 
ably, by the misfortune which had befallen the house 
a shadow from the cloud which wrapped her sister 
toned down the frolicsome gayety which had once 



THE PICTURE. 221 

characterized her, and added the grace of sentiment to 
her demeanor. I could not gaze upon the fair, meditative, 
brow without perceiving that Mary had gained in depth 
of feeling as well as in womanly beauty. She wore a 
dress of some lustrous fabric, which gleamed slumber- 
-ously in the yellow light, like water shining about a 
lily ; as she bent above her book, her hair clustered 
about her throat, softening its exquisite outlines ; so 
near, so vivid, was the unconscious tableau-vivant, seen 
through the open frame of the window, that I imagined 
I heard her breathe, and inhaled the fragrance linger- 
ing in her curls and handkerchief. 

While I gazed, another figure glided within range of 
my vision. Eleanor, as I beheld her in my dreams, 
colorless, robed in black, young still, beautiful still, 
but crowned, like a queen, with the majesty of her des- 
olation, which kept her apart from sympathy, though 
not from adoration. Gliding behind her sister's chair, 
she bent a moment to see what volume had such attrac- 
tions, kissed the fair face turned instantly with a smile 
to hers, and passed away, going out into the hall. I 
had heard hew low " good-night." 

Then, almost before she had vanished, came the third 
figure into the picture. James, approaching as if from 
some sofa where he had been lounging, took the book 
from Mary's hand, which he held a little, saying some- 
thing which brought blushes to her cheeks. Presently 
she withdrew her hand ; but he caught it again, and 
kissed it, and I heard him say, 

"Oh! Mary, you are cruel with me you know 
it." 

Not until I heard him speak, did it rush upon me 
that I had no business to be there, spying and eaves- 
dropping. I had looked at first, unconscious of the 
circumstances, like a wandering spirit lingering by the 
walls of Eden, gazing upon the beauty which is not 



222 THE DEAD LETTER. 

within its sphere. No sooner did I realize rr.y position 
than I began to descend from my eyrie; but James 
had drawn his cousin from her chair, and the. pair ap- 
proached the window, and stood there, their eyes fixed, 
apparently, upon that very point in the giant oak where 
I crouched, suddenly fear-blasted, with the square of 
light from the window illuminating the limb where I 
lay concealed. I had crawled from my first resting- 
place, and was about jumping to the 'ground, when 
their presence transfixed me, in the most dangerous 
possible predicament. I dared not move for fear of 
being discovered. I was paralyzed by a lightning con- 
sciousness that should I then and there IK- betrayed, I 
would be the victim of a singular combination of cir- 
cumstantial evidence. Found lingering at night, like a 
thief, upon the premises of those I had injured ; 
stealthily seeking to remove the evidence of my guilt 
the weapon with which the murder was c.'imniued, 
hidden by me, at the time, in this tree, and now sought 
for in order to remove it from possible disco \ ery \\ ny, 
I tell you, reader, had James Argyll sprung upon me 
there, seized the knife, accused nuMiothhijf u ould have 

, me from condemnation. The probabilities arc, 
that the ease would have lxen so very conclusive, and 
the guilt RO horribly aggravated, that the p. ; 
would have taken the matter in their own hands, and 
torn me to pieces, to show their love of just: . K . -\\ 
the testimony of Mr. llurton would not ha\e availed 
to turn the lido in my favor; he would 
accused of seeking to hide my sin, and his reputation 
would not have saved him from the ban of; :l>lic opin- 
ion. A cold sweat broke over me ns I thought of it. 

:he fear of death, nor of the horror of the world 
but dread of the judgment of th- 

session of me. If this statement of my critical posi- 
tion, when the trembling of a bough might com 



"DID i PROMISE?" 223 

innocent man, should make ray reader more though tful 
in the matter of circumstantial evidence, I shall be re- 
paid for the pangs which I then endured. 

The young couple stepped out upon the sward. I did 
not trouble myself about what had become of Mr. 
Burton, for I knew that he was in the shadow, and 
could retreat with safety ; he, doubtless, felt more anx- 
iety about me. 

" Draw your scarf up over your head, Mary," said 
James, in that soft, pleasant voice of his, which made 
me burn with dislike as I heard it " the night is so 
warm, it will not harm you to be out a few moments. 
Do not deny me a little interval of happiness to- 
night." 

As if drawn forward more by his subtle will than by 
her own wish, she took his arm, and they walked back 
and forth, twice or thrice, in the light of the window, 
and paused directly under the limb of the tree, which 
seemed to shake with the throbbing of my heai't. A 
beam of light fell athwart the face of James, so that I 
could see its expression, as he talked to the young crea- 
ture on his arm a handsome face, dark, glowing with 
passion and determination, but sinister. I prayed, 
in my heart, for Mary to have eyes to read it as I 
read it. 

" Mary, you promised me an answer this week. Give 
it to me to-night. You have said that you would be my 
wife now, tell me how soon I may claim you. I do 
not believe in long engagements ; I want to make you 
mine before any disaster comes between us." 

" Did I promise you, James ? I really did not know- 
that you considered what I said in the light of a prom- 
ise. Indeed, I am so young, and we have always been 
such friends cousins, you know that I hardly under- 
stand my own feelings. I do wish you would not over- 
persuade me ; we might both be sorry. I never believed 
10* 



224 THE DEAD LETTER. 

in the marriage of cousins ; so I do not think you 
ought to t'c-cl hurt, cousin James." 

IK- interrupted the tremulous voice with one a little 
sharper than his first persuasive tone : 

" I am surprise.il that you do net feel that I regard 
you as already betrothed to me. I did not think 
were a coquette, Mary. And, as for cousinship, I have 
already told you what I think of it. I know the secret 
of your reluctance shall I betray it to you ?" 

She was silent. 

" Your heart is still set on that scoundrel. One 
might suppose that dread and loathing would be the 
only sentiment you could entertain toward a traitor 
and I will not speak the word. Mary. You took up 
swords in his defense, and persisted in accusing us of 
wronging him, against the judgment of your own father 
and friends. I suspected, then, by the warmth of your 
avowed friendship for him, that he had, among his 
other honorable de-d>. gained my little cousin's heart, 
for the pleasure of Mattering his self-love. And I shall 
i-t, if you persist, in putting me oil, when y-u 
know that your father desires our union, and that my 
whol-' Ifl wrapped up in you, that he still holds 

it, despite of what has pass*!." 1 

" He never 'gained ' my heart by unfair means." said 
the girl, speaking proudly. " I </<r>-< him what he had 
of it and he never knew how large a part that was. 
1 wish he /i 'til known, p.iov Kiehard ! for I still believe 
that you are all wronging him cruelly. I am /</.< / 
James, and it hurts me to hear you speak so of him. 
lint that would not prevent my being your friend, too, 
cousin " 

" You must not say ' cousin,' .v_rriin, Mary. I'm worn 
out, now, and half mail with my ;' 

me desperate. One thing is certain: I can not May 
any longer where you arc, if you continue so undecided. 




Page zzj. 



IN THK OAK. 



THE PROMISE GIVEN. 225 

I want a final answer to-night. If it is unpropitious, 
F shall go away to-morrow, and seek for such poor for- 
tune as may be mine, in some other part of the world." 

" But what will father do without you, James ?" 

There was distress and a half-yielding cadence in 
Mary's voice. 

" That is for you to think of." 

" His health is failing so rapidly of late ; and he leans 
so much upon you trusts every thing to you. I am, 
afraid it would kill him to have all his hopes and 
plans again frustrated. He has never recovered from 
the shock of Henry's death, and Richard's going 
away." 

" If you think so, Mary, why do you any longer 
hesitate ? You acknowledge that you love me as a 
cousin let me teach you to love me as a lover. My 
sweetest, it will make us all so happy." 

But why should I try to repeat here the arguments 
which I heard ? the main burden of which was the 
welfare and wishes of her father and sister mingled 
with bursts of tender entreaty and, what was more 
powerful than all, the exercise of that soft yet terrible 
will which had worked its way, thus far, against all ob- 
stacles. Suffice it, that when the cousins at last after 
what seemed to me an age, though it could not have 
Veu twenty minutes returned through the window, 
I had heard the promise of Mary to become the wife of 
James before the beginning of another year. 

Never was a man more glad to release himself from 
an unpleasant predicament than I was to descend from 
my perch when the two figures had passed within the 
house. My fear of discovery had become absorbed in 
my keen shame and regret at being compelled to play 
the eavesdropper to a conversation like that which I 
had overheard. Moving a few paces in the shadow of 
the trees, I whispered " Burton." 



226 THE DEAD LETTER. 

" Got yourself into a pretty scrape," was instantly 
answered, in a low tone, as my friend took my arm and 
we moved forward to the gate. " I didn't know but 
A\ -c should have a tragico-coinedy upon the spot, im- 
promptu and highly interesting." 

" I almost wonder that you are not too greatly out 
of patience with waiting to jest about the matter." 

" I've told you my motto ' learn to wait,' Richard. 
The gods will not be hurried ; but liavo you the 
knife ?" 

" Ay !" was my grim answer ; I felt grim, as I gray- 
ed the treacherous, murderous thing which had wrought 
such deadly mischief. The sound of shutters drawn 
together startled us into a quicker pace ; we looked 
back and saw the lower part of the house dark hur- 
ried forward, and without any molestation, or our pres- 
ence in Ulankville being known to a single acquaintance, 
took the night-train back to New York, which we 
reached about two, A. M.. ami were at Mr. Burton's 
house, ringing up the surpnsed servants, shortly after. 

It was not until we were in the library, with the 
doors closed, and the full blaze of a g: urned 

on, that I took from ray pocket the weapon, and handed 
it to my companion. 

Both of us bent curiously forward to examine it. 

" This," said the detective, in a surprised and some- 
what agitated tone, " is a surgical instrument. You 
sec, it is quite unlike a common knit'c. It corroborates 
one of my conclusions. I told you the blow was dealt 
by a practiced hand it has been dealt by one skilled in 
anatomy. There's another link in my chain. 1 hope I 
hh:tl I have patience until I shall have forged it together 
nlmut the guilty." 

" There is no longer any doubt about the dead-letter 
referring to the murder. You sco the instrument is 
broken," I remn: 



EXtTLTATION. 227 

" N"o doubt, indeed," and Mr. Burton went to a 
drawer of a secretary standing in the room, and took 
out the little piece of steel which had been found in 
Henry Moreland's body. 

" You see it is the very fragment. I obtained this 
important bit of evidence, and laid it away, after others 
had given up all efforts to make it available. How for- 
tunate that I preserved it ! So, the wedding is to take 
place within three months, is it ? Richard, we must 
not rest now. A great deal can be done in three 
months, and I would give all the gold I have in bank 
to clear this matter up before that marriage takes place. 
Should that once be consummated before we are satis- 
fied with our investigations, I shall drop them for ever. 
A doctor a doctor " he continued, musingly " I 
knew the fellow had half-studied some profession he 
was a surgeon yes ! By George !" he exclaimed, pre- 
sently, leaping from his chair as if he had been shot, 
and walking rapidly across the room and back. 

I knew he was very much excited, for it was the 
first time I had heard him use any expression like the 
above. I waited for him to tell me what had flashed 
into his mind so suddenly. 

" The fellow who married Leesy's cousin, and ran 
away from her, Avas a doctor Miss Sullivan has told 
me that. Richard, I begin to see light ! day is break- 
ing!" 

I hardly knew whether his speech was figurative or 
literal, as day was really breaking upon us two men, 
plotting there in the night, as if we were the criminals 
instead of their relentless pursuers. 

" Three months ! There will be time, Richard !" and 
Mr. Barton actually flung his arms about me, in a burst 
of exultation. 



228 THE DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE COXFESSION. 

Ix the afternoon we paid Miss Sullivan a visit. It was 
the first time I had met her since that strange night 
of watching at Moreland villa ; and I confess that I 
could not meet her without an inward shudder of ab- 
horrence. Unbounded as was my respect and confi- 
dence for Mr. Burton, I did think that he had erred in 
his conclusions as to the character of this woman; or 
else that he concealed from me his real opinions, for 
some purpose to be explained at the proper time. If 
he still had suspicions, it was evident that he had kept 
them from their object as skillfully as from me, for I 
paw, by her manner of receiving him, that she regarded 
him as a friend. 

Notwithstanding I had been informed of her rapidly- 
failing health, I was shocked at the change in Miss 
Sullivan since I had seen her. It was with an effort 
that she rose from her easy-chair at our approach ; the 
fullness had all wasted from her naturally queenly 
figure; her cheeks were hollow, and aflame with the 
fire of fever; while those black eyes, which had ever 
Bcemed to smolder above unfathomable depths of vol- 
canic passion, now almost bla/ed \\itli light. Some- 
thing like a smile flitted across her face \\lnn she B&vr 
my companion, but smiles were too strange there to 
feel at home, and it vanished as soon as seen. I do not 
think she liked me any better than I did her; each re- 
coiled from the other instinctively ; she would not have 
sjiokcn to me had I come alone ; but out of conc 
to the presence of her friend, she bowed to me and 
asked me to be seated. A little child iu the room ran 



THE BLESSING OP THE PEIENDLES3. 229 

to Mr. Burton, ns if expecting the package of bon-bons 
which lie took from his pocket ; but, as he became en- 
gaged in conversation with Leesy, I coaxed her over to 
me, where she was soon sitting on my knee. She was 
a pretty little girl, about three years old, in whose 
chubby little features I could no longer trace any re- 
semblance to her " aunt." She prattled after the fashion 
of children, and in listening to her, I lost a remark or 
t\vo of Mr. Burton's ; but soon had my attention 
aroused by hearing Miss Sullivan exclaim, 

" Going away ! For how long ?" 

" Three months, at least." 

Her hands sunk in her lap, and she became pale and 
agitated. 

" It is presumptuous in me to dare to be sorry ; I 
am nothing to you ; but you are much to me. I don't 
know how we shall get along without you." 

" Don't be uneasy about that, my child. I shall 
make arrangements with this same person who boards 
you now to keep you until my return, and, if you should 
fall sick, to take good care of you." 

" You are far too good," she responded, tremulously. 
" You will have the blessing of the friendless. I only 
wish it had the power to bring yon good luck on your 
journey." 

" Perhaps it will," he said, with a smile. " I "have a 
great deal of faith in such blessings. Bat, Leesy, I 
think you can assist my journey in even a more tan- 
gible way than that." 

She looked at him inquiringly. 

" I want you to tell me all and every thing you know- 
about the father of little Nora." 

" Why, sir ?" she quickly asked. "I hope you have 
not heard from him," looking over toward the child, as 
if afraid it might be snatched from her. 

" Your health is very far gone, Leesy ; I suppose you 



230 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

hardly hope ever to recovcr.it. "Would yon not be 
glad to see Nora under her father's protection before 
you were taken away?" 

She stretched out her arms for the child, who slid off 
my knoe, ran and climbed into her lap, where she held 
the curly head close to her bosom for a moment ; her 
attitude was as if she sheltered the little one from 
threatened danger. 

"I know, much more surely than anyone else, that 
my days are numbered. I believe I shall never see 
your face again, Mr. Burton ; and that was what 
grieved me when you spoke of going away it was not 
that I thought of my comfort so much. The winter 
snow will hide me before you come back from your 
journey ; and my darling will be left friendless. I know 
it it is my only care. But I would rather, far rather, 
leave her to the cold chanty of an orphan asylum yes, 
I would rather turn her upon the street, with her inno- 
cent face only for a protector than that her father 
should have aught to do with Nora." 

"Why?" 

"Because he is a bad man." 

" I understand that he is in California ; and as I am 
going to San Francisco, and perhaps shall visit the 
mining regions before my return, I thought you mijjht 
wish to send him a message, telling him the child's 
condition. He may have laid up money by this time, 
and be able to send you a sura sufficient to provide for 
little Nora until she is old enough to take care of her- 
self." 

She only shook her head, drawing the child closer, 
with a shudder. 

4 I have forgotten his name," said Mr. Burton. 

"I will not tell you," answi -rnl Mi-^ Sullivan, with a 
return of the old fierceness, like that of a hunted ] an- 
ther. " Why can I never, never, never be let alone ?" 



231 

" Do you think I would do any thing for yonr injury 
or disadvantage ?" asked the detcetive, in that gentle 
yet penetrating voice which had such power to move 
people to his will. 

" I do not know," she cried ; " you have seeijTed to 
be my friend. But how do I know that it is not all 
simply to compass my destruction at last ? You have 
brought into my house *ffiat person," looking at me, 
" who has persecuted me. You promised me that I 
should be free from him. And now you want to set a 
bloodhound on my track as if I must be driven into 
my grave, and not allowed to go in peace." 

" I assure you, Leesy, I had no idea that you re- 
garded Nora's father with so much dislike. I have no 
object in the world in troubling you with him. I prom- 
ise you that no word of mine shall give him the clue to 
your present circumstances, nor to the fact that he has 
a child living, if he is ignorant of it. You shall be 
protected you shall have peace and comfort. What I 
would like is, that you shall give me a history of his 
life, his habits, character, where he lived, what was his 
business, etc. ; and I will give you my reasons for 
W'ishing the information. A circumstance has come to 
light which connects him with an affair which I am in- 
vestigating that is, if he is the person I think he is 
a sort of a doctor, I believe ?" 

Miss Sullivan did not answer the question so skill- 
fully put ; she still watched us with shining, half-sullen 
eyes, as if ready to put forth a claw from the velvet, if 
we approached too near. 

" Come, Leesy, you must tell me what I want to 
hear." Mr. Burton's air was now that of a master. 
" Time is precious. I can not wait upon a woman's 
whim. I have promised you and repeat it, upon my 
honor that no annoyance or injury shall come to you 
through what you may tell me. If you prefer to 



232 THE DEAD LETTER. 

answer me quietly to being compelled to answer before 
n court, all is right. I must know what I desire about 
this man." 

" M'in, Mr. Burton ! Call him creature." 

" Very well, creature, Leesy. You know him better 
than I do, and if you say he is a creature, I suppose I 
may take it for granted. His name is " 

"Or was, George Thorley." 

When the name was spoken, I gave 'a start which 
attracted the attention of both my companions. 

" You probably know something about him, Mr. 
Redfield," remarked the girl. 

" George Thorley, of Blankville, who used to have 
an apothecary shop in the lower part of the village, 
and who left the place some three years ago, to escape 
the talk occasioned by a suspicious case of malpractice, 
in which he was reported to be concerned ?" 

"The same person, sir. Did you know him ?" 

"I can not say that I was acquainted with him. I 
do not remember that I ever spoke a word with him. 
But I knew him, by sight, very well. Ho had a face 
which made people look twice at him. I think I bought 
some tritles in his shop once. And the gossip there 
was about him at the time he ran away, fixed his name 
in my memory. I wns almost a stranger then in 
Blankville had lived there only about a year." 

' How did he come to have any connection with 
your family, Leesy ?" 

Miss Sullivan had grown pale during the agitation 
of our talk, but she flushed again at the question, hesi- 
tated, and finally, looking the detective full in the eyes, 



"Since you have promised, upon your honor, not to 
disturb me any further about this matter, and hinee I 
am under obligations to you, sir, which I can not for- 
get, I will tell you the rest of the story, a part of 



THE BEGI2TS1JTQ. 233 

which I told yon that morning at Moreland villa. I 
coni'essed to you, there, the secret of ray own heart, as 
I never confessed it to any but God, and I told you 
something of my cousin's history to satisfy you about 
the child. I will now tell you all I know of George 
Thorley, which is more than I wish I knew. The first 
time I ever saw him was over four years ago, a short 
time after he set up his little shop, which, you recollect, 
was not far from my aunt's in Blankville. My aunt 
sent me, one evening, for something to relieve the 
toothache, and I went into the nearest place, which 
vas the new one. There was no one in but the owner. 
I was surprised by the great politeness with Avhich he 
treated me, and the interest he seemed to take in the 
case of my aunt. He was a long time putting up the 
medicine, pasting the label on, and making change, so 
that I thought my aunt would surely be out of temper 
before I could bring her the drops. He asked our 
name, and where we lived, which was all, I thought, 
but a, bit of his blarney, to get the good will of his 
customers." (Miss Sullivan usually spoke with great 
propriety, but occasionally a touch of her mother's 
country, in accent or expression, betrayed her Irish 
origin.) " That was the beginning of our acquaint- 
ance, but not the end of it. It was but a few days 
before he made an excuse to call at our house. I was 
a young girl, then, gay and healthy; and the plain 
truth of it is that George Thorley fell in love with me. 
My aunt was very much flattered, telling me I would 
be a fool not to encourage him that he was a doctor 
and a gentleman and would keep his wife like a lady 
that there would bo no more going out to sew and 
slave for others, if I were once married to him ; it was 
only what she expected of me, that I would at least be 
a doctor's wife, after the schooling she had given me, 
and with the good looks I had. It is no vanity in me, 



234 THE DEAD LETTER. 

now, to say of this clay, so soon to be mingled with 
the dust of the earth, that it was beautiful too much 
so, alas, for my own peace of mind for it made me 
despise the humble and honest suitors who mi<;ht have 
secured me a lowly, happy life. Yet it was not that, 
either, and I'll not demean myself to say so it was 
not because I was handsome that I held myself aloof 
from those in my own station ; it was because I felt 
that I had thoughts and tastes they could not under- 
stand that my life was above theirs in hope, in aspira- 
tion. I was ambitious, but only to develop the best 
that was in me. If I could only be a needle-woman all 
my day, then I would be so skillful and so fanciful 
with my work, as almost to paint pictures with my 
needle and thread. Hut this isn't telling you about 
George Thorlcy. From the first I took a dislike to 
him. I'm not good at reading character, but I under- 
stood his pretty thoroughly, and I was afraid of him. 
I was very cold to him, for I saw that he wa* of a quirk 
temper, and I did not mean he should say that I had 
ever encouraged him. I told my aunt I did not think 
he was a gentleman I had ceen plenty of iv.il gentle- 
men in the houses where I sewed, and they were not 
like him. I told her, too, that he had a violent temper, 
and a jealous disposition, and could not make any wo- 
man happy. Hut she would not think of him in that 
light; her heart was set on the apothecary's shop, 
which, she said, would grow into a fine druir-Moiv with 
the doctor's name in gilt letters on the door of his 
office. 

*' George soon offered himself, and was terribly angry 
when I refused him. I believe he loved me, in his self- 
U!i way, better than he loved any other human - 
turc. He would not give me up, nor allow me any 
peace from his persecutions. He doir^rd mv >tcps 
whenever I went out, and if I spoke to any other man, 



JEALOUSY. 235 

it put him in a rage. I got to feeling that I was 
watched all the time ; for sometimes he wculd laugh in 
his hateful way, and tell me of things he had seen when 
I thought him miles away. 

" Twice, in particular, I remember of his being in a 
savage passion, and threatening me. It was after" 
here the speaker's voice, despite of her etforts to keep 
it steady, trembled and sunk " he had seen me riding 
out in the carriage with Mrs. Moreland. He said those 
people were making a fool of me that I was so set up, 
by their attentions, as to despise him. I told him that 
if I despised him, it was not for any such reason. It 
was because he behaved so ungentlemanly toward me, 
spying around me, when he had no business whatever 
with my affairs. That made him madder than ever, 
and he muttered words which I did not like. I told 
him I was not afraid of any mortal thing, and I didn't 
think he would frighten me into marrying him. He 
said he would scare me yet, so that I would never get 
over it. I think he liked the spirit I showed ; it seemed 
the more I tried to make him hate me, the more de- 
termined he was to pursue me. I don't know how it 
was that I understood him so well, for in those days 
there had been nothing whispered against his character. 
Indeed, people didn't know much about him ; and he 
got himself into the good graces of some of the leading 
citizens of Blankville. He had told me something of 
his history ; that is, that his family were English ; that 
he, like myself, was an orphan ; that, by dint of good 
luck, he had got a place in a doctor's office in one of 
the towns in this State one of those humble situations 
where he was expected to take care of the physician's 
horse, drive the carriage, put up medicines, attend upon 
orders, and any thing and every thing. He was smart 
and quick ; he had many hours of leisure when waiting 
behind the little counter, and these hours he spent in 



230 THE DEAD LETTER. 

studying the doctor's books, which he managed to get 
hold of one at a time. By these means, and by observ- 
ing keenly the physician's methods, his advice to pa- 
tients who called at the office, and by reading and 
putting up prescriptions constantly, he picked up a 
really sin-prising smattering of science. Making up 
his mind to be a doctor, and to keep a drug-store (a 
profitable business, he knew)' he had the energy to 
carry out his plans. How he finally obtained the cap- 
ital to set up the little business in Blankville, I never 
understood, but I knew that he attended lectures on 
surgery, one winter, in New York, and was in a hos- 
pital there a short time. All this was lair enough, and 
proved him ambitious and energetic ; but I did not like 
or trust him. There was something dark and hidden 
in the workings of his mind, from whieh I shrunk. I 
knew him, too, to be cruel. I could sec it in his man- 
ner of treating children and animal:- ; there was noth- 
ing he liked so well as to practice his half-learned art 
of surgery upon some unfortunate sufferer. The more 
he insisted on^my liking him, the more I grew to dread 
him. 

" Affairs were at this crisis when my cousin camo 
from New York to pay my aunt a visit. Coming to 
our rooms almost every evening, of course he made her 
acquaintance immediately. For the purpose of making 
me jealous, he began to pay the most devoted attention 
to her. Nora wa* a pretty girl, with blue eyes and 
fair hair ; an innocent-minded thing, not very sharp, 
apprenticed to a milliner in the city ; she believed all 
that Doctor Thorley told her, and fell in love with him, 
of coarse. When she went away, after her little holi- 
day, George found that, instead of provoking me to 
jealousy, he had only roused my temper at the way he 
had fooled Nora. I scolded him well for it, and ended 
by telling him that I never would speak to him again. 



DEVOTION. 237 

" Well, it was just after that the scandal arose about 
his causing the death of a person by malpractice. He 
found it was prudent to run away ; so he sold his stock 
for what he could get, and hid himself in New York. 
I did not know, at first, where he was ; but felt so re- 
lieved to be rid of him. I had made up my own mind 
to go to New York, and get employment in a fancy- 
store. You know, Mr. Burton, for I once laid my 
heart before you, what wild, mad, but sinless infatua- 
tion it was which drew me there. I am not ashamed 
of it. God is love. When I stand in his presence, I 
shall glory in that power of love, which in this bleak 
world has only fretted and wasted my life. In heaven 
our whole lives will be one adoration." She clasped 
her thin hands together, and turned her dark eyes up- 
ward with an expression rapt to sublimity. I gazed 
upon her with renewed surprise and almost reverence. 
Never do I expect to meet another woman, the whole 
conformation of whose mind and heart so fitted her for 
blind, absolute devotion as Leesy Sullivan's. 

" When I went to the city to see about getting a place, 
I met my cousin, who told me that she Avas married to 
George Thorley, and had been for some weeks ; that 
they were boarding in a nice, quiet place, and that 
George staid at home a great deal indeed, he hardly 
went out at all. 

" It was evident that she had not heard of his reasons 
for leaving Blankville, and that she did not gxiess why 
he kept himself so quiet. Of course I hadn't the heart 
to tell her ; but I made up my mind that I'd be better 
to stay where I was, for the present so I went back 
to my aunt, without trying to get a situation in New 
York. 

" It was about six months after this I got word from 
Nora, begging me to come and see her. I loved my 
cousin, and I'd felt grieved that she was married to 



238 THE DEAD LETTEB. 

Dr. Thorley. I mistrusted something was wrong ; so 
I went to the city, and found her out in the miserable 
tenement where she was now stopping, starving her- 
self in a room with hardlva nit of furniture. She burst 
out a-crying when she saw me ; and when I stopped 
her sobbing, she told me she had not seen George for 
more than three months ; that either he had met with 
an accident, or he'd run away from her, leaving her 
without a cent of monev, and she in sueli health that 
she could hardly earn enough to buy a bit of bread 
and pay the rent of this room. 

"'Do you really think he has left you ?' I asked her. 

"' Sure, how can I tell T she answered, looking at 
me so pitifully with her innocent blue eyes. ' lie was 
a fine gentleman, and it's afraid I am that he's grown 
tired of his poor Irish Nora.' 

"'I warned you, cousin,' I said; ' 1 knew (ieorge 
Thorley for a villain ; but you were taken with his line 
words, and wouldn't heed. I'm sorry, sorry, sorry for 
you but that won't undo what's done. Are yu sure 
you are hi^ wile. Xm-a dear''' 

''As sure M 1 am >f hea\eii,' :.ngry with 

me. ' Hut it's married we we're by a Protestant d 
man, to please George and I've got my ceriilieatesafe 
ah, yes, indeed.' 

" I could never ascertain whether the eeivmony had 
been performed by a legalized minister ; I always sus- 
pected my poor cousin had been d'-eeived. and it was 
because my aunt thought so, too, and was tore on the 
subject, that she got so angry with you two gem. 
when yon went to inquire. Hut, whether my suspi- 
cions were or were not correct, Nora was George's wife 
as certainly, in the sight of the angels, as woman wat 
ever the wife of man. Poor child! I no longer h< Di- 
lated about coming to New York. She needed my pro- 
tection, and rny help, too. I paid her board till the 



" I CALLED HIM A MUKDEKER." 239 

day of her death, which was but a few days after her 
poor little baby was born ; I saw her decently buried, 
and then I put out the infant to nurse, and I worked to 
keep that. It was a comfort to me, sir. My own heart 
was sad, and I took to the little creature almost as if it 
was my own. I had promised Nora that I would bring 
it up, and I have kept my word, thus far. I hated its 
father for the way he'd treated Nora, but I loved the 
child ; I took pleasure in making its pretty garments 
and in seeing that it was well taken care of. I knew I 
should never marry ; and I adopted Nora's child as rny 
own. 

" Hardly was poor Nora cold in her grave when I 
was, one evening, surprised by a visit from George Thor- 
ley. Where he had been during his absence I did not 
know. He tried to excuse his conduct toward my 
cousin, by saying that he had married her in a fit of 
jealousy, to which I'd driven him by my coldness; 
that he'd been so tormented in mind he couldn't stay 
with her, for he didn't love her, and he'd gone out 
West, and been hard at work, to try and forget the 
past. But he couldn't forget it ; and when he saw his 
wife's death in the papers, he had felt awfully ; but 
now he hoped I'd forgive it all, and marry him. He 
said lie had a good business started in Cincinnati, and 
I should want for nothing, and I mustn't say no to him, 
again. I stood up, I was so indignant, and faced him 
till he grew as white as a sheet. I called him a mur- 
derer yes, Nora's murderer and ordered him never 
to speak to me nor come near me again. I knew he 
was terribly angry ; his eyes burned like fire ; but he 
did not say much that time ; as he took up his hat to 
go, he asked about his baby if it was living ? I 
would not answer him. He had no right to the child, 
and I did not wish him to see it, or have any thing to 
do with it. 
11 



240 THE DEAD LETTER. 

w What became of him, after that, for a long time, I 
don't know. He may have been in the city all the 
time, or he may have been in Cincinnati. At any rate, 
one day, as I was going from my boarding-house to the 
store, I found him walking along by my side. Nora was 
nigh a year old then. He commenced talking to me on 
the street, asking me again to marry him ; and then, to 
frighten me, he said what a pretty baby Nora had got 
to be ; and that he should have to find a wife to take 
care of his child. She was his, and he was going to 
have her, right away ; and if I had any interest in her, 
I could show it by becoming her step-mother. He said 
he had plenty of money, and pulled out a handful of 
gold and showed me. But this only made me think 
the worse of him. He followed me home, and into my 
room, against my will, and there I turned upon him and 
told him that if he ever dared to force himself into my 
presence again, I would summon the police, and he 
should be turned over to the Blankvilk' authorities for 
the crime that had driven him out of the village. 

"After he was gone, I sunk into a chair, tivmbling 
with weakness, though I had been so bold in his pres- 
ence. Pie looked like an evil spirit, when he smiled at 
me ns he shut the door. His smile was more threaten 
ing than any scowl would have been. I was frightened 
for Nora. Every day I expected to hear that the little 
creature had been taken from her nurse ; I trembled 
night and day ; but nothing happened to the child, and 
from that day to this I have not seen George Thorley. 
If he is in California, I am glad of it ; for that is a 
good ways off, and perhaps he'll never get track of his 
daughter. I'd far rather she'd die and be buried with 
her mother and myself, than to live to ever know that 
ehe had such a father. 

'It seems a strange lot has been mine," concluded 
the sewing-girl, her dark eyes musing with a far-away 



THE DESCRIPTION CORRESPONDS. 241 

look, " to have been followed by such a man as that, to 
have set my heart so high above me, and then to have 
fallen, by means of that love, into such' a dreadful pit 
of circumstances not only to be heart-broken, hut so 
driven and hunted about the world, with my poor little 
lambkin here." 

The pathetic look and tone with which she said this 
touched me deeply. For the first time, I felt fully the 
exceeding cruelty I had been guilty of toward her, if 
she were as innocent as her words averred of that 
nameless and awful crime which I had written do\vn 
against her. At that moment, I did believe her inno- 
cent ; I did pity her for her own melancholy sufferings, 
which had wasted the fountains of her life ; and I did 
respect her for that humble and perfect devotion, giv- 
ing all and asking nothing, with which she lavished her 
soul upon him whose memory called upon his friends for 
sleepless vigilance in behalf of justice. I did not won- 
der that she shrunk from me as from one ready to 
wound her. But this was only when in her presence ; 
as soon as I was away I felt doubtful again. 

" Have you any likeness of George Thorley ?" asked 
Mr. Burton. 

" No. Poor Nora had his ambrotype, but after her 
death I threw it into the fire." 

" Will you describe him to us ?" 

Miss Sullivan gave a description corresponding in all 
particulars with that given by Mr. Burton, after read- 
ing the dead-letter ; he asked her about the third finger 
of the right hand, and she said " Yes, it had been 
injured by himself, in some of his surgical experi- 
ments." 

We now proposed to take leave, the detective again 
assuring Leesy that he should rather protect her against 
Thorley than allow him any chance to annoy her ; he 
assured her she should be cared for in his absence, and, 



242 THE DEAD LETTER. 

what was more, that if little Xora should bo loft friend- 
less, he would keep an eye on the child and sec that it 
was suitably brought up. This last assurance bright- 
ened the face of the consumptive with smiles and tears ; 
but when he gave her his hand at parting, she burst 
into sobs. 

" It is our last meet 'HILT, sir." 

"Try to keep as well as you are now until T come 
back," he said, cheerfully. " I mav want you very 
much then. And, by the wav, I. <(-% one question 
more. You once told me that you did not reco^ni/e 
the person you saw upon the lawn, at Mr. Argyll's, 
that night have you a suspicion who it mi^ht br '.'" 

" None. I believe the man was a stranger to me. I 
only saw him by a Hash of liiihtninir at the instant he 
was descending from the tree; if he had been an ac- 
quaintance I do not know that I should have known 
him." 

" That is all. Good-by, little Nora. Don't forget 
Burton." 

We heard the girl's sobs after the door was shut. 

"I'm her only friend," said my companion, as he 
walked awa\ . " No wonder she is mo\ ed at letting 
me go. I think, with her. that it is doubtful if she lasts 
until we get back. Still, her disease is a I'm 
I hope I shall see her live to \\itnc-~-the sad triumph 
of our industry." 

" You speak as if the triumph were already secured.'' 

"If he's on the face of the earth, we'll tin.l EfeotaM 
George Thorley. It is no longer po^ible that we. 
should be on the wrong track. You know. Kichard, 
that I have not confided all my secrets to you. There 
will be no one more astonished than yourself when I 
summon my witnesses and sum up my conclusions. Oh, 
that the hour were come ! But I forget my motto 
1 learn to labor and to wait.' " 



NO DEFINITE PLANS. 243 



CHAPTER IV. 

EMBARKED FOR CALIFORNIA. 

WE were on our way to California by the next steamer. 
By the advice of Mr. Burton I purchased my ticket 
under an assumed name, for he did not wish to excite 
the curiosity of the Argylls, who might happen to see 
the passage-list, and who would be sure to suspect 
something from the contiguity of our names. To his 
friends, who chanced to know of his sudden intentions, 
Mr. Burton represented that the health of his daughter 
demanded a change of climate, and business matters 
had led him to prefer California. 

It was fortunate, since the expenses of such a trip 
had become so unexpected a necessity, that I had lived 
in the plain, i-etiring manner which I had done in Wash- 
ington. I had wasted no money on white kids, bou- 
quets, nor champagne-suppers ; I had paid my board 
and washing-bills, and a very moderate bill to my tailor ; 
the rest of my salary had been placed in a New York 
bank to my account. My scorched soul and withered 
tastes had demanded no luxurious gratification not 
even the purchase of new books ; so that now, when 
this sudden demand arose, I had a fund sufficient for 
the purpose. Mr. Burton bore his own expenses, 
which, indeed, I could not help, for I had not the means 
of urging a different course upon him. 

We had a very definite object, but no definite plans ; 
these were to be formed according to the circumstances 
we had to encounter after our arrival in El Dorado. Of 
course our man was living under an assumed name, and 
had traveled under an assumed one ; we might have 
every difficulty in getting upon his track. At the time 



244 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the detective had discovered the return of the five- 
hundred dollar bill from San Francisco, he had, with 
great perseverance, trained access to, and " made a note 
of" the passengers' lists of all the steamers which sailed 
at or about the time of the murder, for California. 
These he had preserved. Ont of the names, he had 
chosen those which his curious sagacity suggested were 
the most likely to prove fictitious, and, if no quicker 
method presented itself, he intended to trace out one 
and all of those passengers, until he came uj.on (/<>' man. 
In all this I was his assistant, willing to carry mil his 
directions, but trusting the whole affair to his more ex- 
perienced hand. 

During the long, monotonous days of our voyage, I 
seemed to have 

"Suffered tea-change " 

into something quite different from the wooden sort of 
being into which! had gradually been hardening. With 
the dull routine of my office-life were broken up al<i> 
many of the cynical ways of thinking into which I had 
fallen. I felt as it' the springs of youth were not quite 
dried up. The real secret of this improvement wa in 
the eager hope I entertained that tlie real criminals 
were soon to be brought to light, ami the Argylls made 

ilize the cruel wrong they had done me. Already, 
in imagination, I had accepted their regret and forgiven 
them their injustice. It Deemed as if every l.reath of 
the Bea-breeze, and every bound of the sparkling waves, 
swept away ft portion of the l.ilterness which had min- 
gled with my nature. The old poetry of existence be- 
gan to warm my chilled pulses and to flush the morning 
and evening sky. For hour* most melancholy, yet 
mot delicious, I would climb to some lonely pot ..f 
observation for I was a perfect sailor among the ropes 
and there, where the blue of heaven bent down to 

the blue of the ocean, making an azure round in 



.SEA-DREAMS. 245 

which floated only the ethereal clouds, all the sweetness 
of the past would come floating to me in fragments, like 
the odor of flowers blown from some beloved and dis- 
tant shore. 

The most vivid picture in my sea-dreams, was that 
;of the parlor of the old Argyll mansion, as I had seen 
it last, on the night of my excursion to the oak-tree. 
Mary, in the rosy bloom of young womanhood, the ideal 
of beauty to the eye of a young and appreciative man, 
whose standard of female perfection was high, while 
his sensitiveness to its charm was intense Mary, read- 
ing her book beneath the rich light of the chandelier 
I loved to recall the vision, except always that it was 
marred by that shadow of James coming too soon be- 
tween 'me and the light. But that flitting vision of 
Eleanor was as if a saint had looked down at me out of 
its shrine. I saw, then, that she was no longer of this 
world, as far as her hopes were concerned. My once 
strong passion had been slowly changing into reverence ; 
I had grieved with her with a grief utterly self-abne- 
gating, and when I saw that her despair had worked ^ 
itself up to a patient and aspiring resignation, I now 
felt less of pity and more of affectionate reverence. I 
would have sacrificed my life for her peace of heart ; 
but I no longer thought of Eleanor Argyll as of a wo- 
man to be approached by the loves of this world. Still, 
as I mused in my sea-reveries, I believed myself to have 
exhausted my wealth of feeling upon this now dead and 
hallowed love. I had given my first offering at the 
feet of a woman, peerless amid her compeers, and since 
she had chosen before me, I must needs live solitary, 
too honored by having worshiped a woman like Elea- 
nor, to ever be satisfied with a second choice. For 
Mary I felt a keen admiration, and a brother's fondest 
love. The noble words she had spoken in my favor 
had thrilled me with gratitude, and increased the 



246 THE DEAD LETTER. 

tenderness I had always cherished toward her. AYhen I 
thought of her approaching marriage, it was not with 
jealousy, l>ut with a certain indefinable pang which came 
of my dislike to the motives ami character of James. 
I did not believe that he loved her. Eleanor he lfi>t 
loved ; hut Mary was to him only the nece-sarv means 
of MOttring the name, property, respectability, etc., of 
his uncle's family. As I recalled that visit to the gam- 
ing-table, I felt, at times, as if I mntr get lack from 
thi< journey in time to interfere, and break nj> the mar- 
riage. I would run the risk of being again treated as 
before of being misunderstood and insulted T would 
run any risk to save her from the unhappiness which 
must come from such a partnership ! Sol tboOghtOOO 
hour, and the next I would persuade mvself that I 
could not and must not make such a fool of mvself ; 
and that, after all, when once " married and settled,*' 
James might make a verv -.rood husband and citizen. 

Little Lenore wa the light ami glory of the steamer. 
People almost fancied that, with such a good angel 
aboard, no harm could come to the ship. And indeed 
we had a specdv, prosperous voyage. 

.- tedious to .Mr. r,m-t.n. I had neve; 
him sn rcstle->-. I u-cd to tell him that he mad. 
hours a great deal longer by counting them so i.ften. 
It was evident that he had some anxiety which he did 
not share with inc. A feverish dread of delays was 
upon him. 

After we had crossed the isthmus and were fairly 
embarked oil the Pacific, his n-stU-.sm-s< abated. Yd 
it was just then that a small delay occurred, which 
threatened to irritate him into new impatience. It was 
found that the captain had taken on board 'pule a cm- 
panv of passengers whom he had promised to land at 
Aeapulco. It was a beautiful, -imny day early in ' 
ber, that our ship steamed into the little bay. Nearly 



" SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED TO HIM." 247 

all the passengers were on deck, to take a look at the 
country and harbor as we approached. I was upon the 
hurricane-deck with Lenore, who was delighted with 
the warm air and green shores, and whose hair stream- 
ed on the fresh yet delicious breeze like a golden ban- 
ner. She observed the distant mountains, the sunny 
haze, the glimmering water of the bay, Avith all the in- 
telligence of a woman ; while I could not but be more 
pleased with the roses blowing on her cheeks and the 
trick the wind was playing with her hair, than with all 
the scenery about us. The child's attendant, a steady, 
careful matron, who had long had the charge of her, 
was likewise on deck, chatting with some of her new 
acquaintances, and she could not refrain from coming 
to us, presently, on the pretext of wrapping Lenore's 
shawl closer about her. 

" Do look at her, Mr. Redfield," said the good wo- 
man, " did you ever see her looking so bright and 
healthy, sir ? The master was right, sure enough it 
was a sea-voyage she needed, above all things. Her 
cheeks are like pinies, and, if I do say it, who shouldn't, 
it's the opinion of the company that you're the best- 
lookin' couple on the decks. I've heard more'n one 
speak of it this past half-hour." 

" That's half true, anyhow," I answered, laughing, 
and looking at Lenore, whose modest, quiet mind was 
never on the alert for compliments. She laughed be- 
cause I did, but remained just as unconscious of her 
pretty looks as hitherto. 

" There's papa coming," she said ; " something has 
happened to him." 

With her marvelous quick discernment, so like her 
father's, she perceived, before I did, that he was excited, 
although endeavoring to appear more calm than lie 
really felt. 

" Well, Richard, Lenore," he began, drawing us a 
11* 



248 THE DEAD LETTER. 

little apart from the others, speaking in a low voice, 
"what do you say to my leaving you ?" 

"Leaving us!" we both very naturally exclaimed. 

u It would be rather sudden, that is true." 

- \V lii-re would you go? Walk off on the water, 
or betake yourself to the valleys and mountains of 
Mexico?" 

"There's no jest about it, Richard, Information, 
whirh has come tome in the strangest, most unexpccu ! 
manner, renders it imperative thai I should stop at 
Acapulco. I am as much surprised a< you are. I have 
not even time to tell you the story ; in twenty minutes 
the >hij> will begin to send oft' her pass.-np-rs in a small- 
boat ; and if I decide to remain here, I must go to my 
state-roora for some of my clothes." 

"Are you in earnest, lather?" asked Lenore, ready 
to cry. 

" Yes, my darling. I am afraid I must let you go on 
to San Francisco without me; but you will have Marie, 
and Kit-hard will take as good care of you as I would. 
I want you to enjoy yourselves, to have no car 
take tin- second return steamer, which will ^ive you a 
fortnight in San Francisco, and I trill mot yon at the 
ixthmus. As you will have nothing to do, after Your 
arrival, I will advise you to explore the country, ii.li; 
out every pleasant day, etc. The time will soon 
and in five weeks, God willing, we shall meet and be 
happy, my dear little girl. Kim, run to Marie, and tell 
her what I am to do; she will come and get my 
orders." 

Lenore moved away, rather reluctantly, and Mr. 
liurtnii continued to myself, who was standing silent 
from inert- stupidity of astonishment : 

Ky the merest chance in the wi.rld I overheard a 
conversation lictwecn the people about to land, which 
convinces me that George Thorley, instead of l.-in^ in 



"I'M SUBE OP MY MAN." 249 

California, is not thirty miles from Acapulco. If I 
were not positive of it, I should not run the risk of ex- 
periment, now, when time is worth every thing. But I 
am so certain of it, that I do not see as there is any 
thing for you to do in San Francisco but to help little 
Lenore pass the time pleasantly. I have thought, as 
calmly as I could under the pressure of much haste, 
whether you had better stop with me, and await, at 
some hotel in Acapulco, the result of my visit into the 
interior, or go on to the end of your journey, and return- 
ing, meet me at the isthmus. On the child's account, 
I think you had better finish the voyage as expected. 
The sea-air is benefiting her greatly ; and, unless you 
fret too much, there is nothing to prevent your enjoying 
the trip." 

" I shall do just as you advise, Mr. Burton ; but, of 
course, I shall be intolerably anxious. For my own 
part, I would rather keep with you; but that must be 
done which is best for all." 

" You could do me no good by remaining with me ; 
the only thing to be gained is, that you would be out 
of your suspense sooner. But, I assure you, you ought 
to rejoice and feel light-hearted in view of so soon learn- 
ing the one fact most important to us the hiding-place 
of that man. Think you I would wish delay ? No. 
I'm sure of my man, or I should not take this unex- 
pected step. How curious are the ways of Provi- 
dence ! It seems as if I received help outside of myself. 
I was vexed to hear that we were to be delayed at 
Acapulco, and now this has proven our salvation." 
" God grant you are in the right, Mr. Burton." 
" God grant it. Do not fear that I shall fail, Rich- 
ard. You have reason to be doubly cheerful. Don't 
you trust me ?" 

" As much more, than any person on earth." 

" Be true to your part, then ; take good care of my 



250 THE DEAD LETTER. 

child meet me at the isthmus that is your \rhole 
duty." 

"But, Mr. Burton, do you not place yourself in 
danger ? Are you not incurring risks which you ought 
to share with others ? Can I go on, idle and prosper- 
ous, leaving you to do all tin- work, ami brave all the 
dangers of a journey like yours?" 

"I wish it. There maybe a little personal rik ; 
but not more, perhaps, than I incur every day of my 
life. Perhaps you do not know," he added, gayly, 
' that I lead a charmed life. Malice and iv \cm_re have 
followed me in a hundred disguises six times I have 
. d pui-niied food prepared lor me; se\eral time.-, 
infernal machines, packed to resemble elegant presents, 
have been sent to me ; thrice I have turned upon the 
assassin, whose arm was raided to >trik( luit I have 
come unscathed out of all danger, to quietly pursue the 
path to which a vivid sense of duty calls me. 1 do not 
believe that I am going to fail in this, one of the mo-t, 
atrocious cases in which I have ever intciv-lcd my>elf. 
No, no, Richard ; I enjoy the work the sense of dan- 
ger adds to its importance. I would not ha\e it other- 
\\i-e. As I said, (iod willing, I will meet you at the 
i-thiiiu-. It' I do ii. -t keep my appointment, th>n you 
may know that harm has come to me; and, alter pro- 
viding for the safe passage home of my little family, 
you may, if you please, come back to. look after the 
threads of the history which I ha\e dropped. The 
steamer has cast anchor ; I must get my luggage in 
shape to go ash< 

Mi- turned away ; l.ut presently paused and returned, 
with an air of perplexity. 

" There will be something for you to do, Richard. I 
had forgotten about that live-hundred-dollar bill, which 
certainly went to California within a shori time alter 
the robbery. If I should be mistaken, alter all but 



FOREBODING. 251 

no ! my information is too conclusive I must take the 
course, now, and if I am on the wrong track, it will be 
a bad business. However, I will not allow myself to 
think so," he added, brightening again ; " but it will do 
no harm for you to take a lesson in my art, by exercis- 
ing your skill in tracing the fortunes of that bank-note. 
In doing that, you may come upon evidence which, if I 
fail here, may he turned to use." 

With a foreboding of evil I looked after him as he 
descended the ladder to the lower deck form, face and 
manner expressing the indomitable energy which made 
him the man he was. 

When the sun sunk, that night, into the molten waves 
of the Pacific, Lenore and I paced the deck alone ; and 
as she quietly wiped away the tears which fell at the 
sense almost of desertion which her father's sudden de- 
parture caused, I could hardly cheer her, as he had bid- 
den me ; for I, too, felt the melancholy isolation of our 
position voyaging to a strange land in the wake of an 
awful mystery. 



252 TttB DEAD LETTER. 



CHAPTER V. 

ON THE TRAIL. 

I NEED not dwell at much length upon our visit to San 
Francisco, since nothing important to the success of our 
enterprise came of it. From the hour we entered the 
Golden Gate till we departed through it, I was restless 
with a solicitude which made me nervous and sleepless, 
destroyed my appetite, and blinded me to half the nov- 
elties of San Francisco, with its unparalleled growth 
and hybrid civilization. I ga\e tin- most of my time to 
two objects looking, by night, into all the bad, popu- 
lar, or out-of-the-way dens, haunts, saloon s theaters and 
hotels. scanning every one of the thousands of strange 
fact--, for that one sinister countenance, which I felt 
that I could know at a glance and in the endeavor to 
identify the man who had disposed of tin- Park Bank 
bill to the Express Company. 

I was rewarded, for days of research, by ascertaining, 
finally, and beyond doubt, that a gentleman of respect- 
ability, a Spaniard, still residing in the city, had >H'c ed 
the bill to In- di.-c,. inited at the time it had been ac- 
cepted by the company. I made the acquaintance of 
the Spanish gentleman, and, with a delicacy of address 
upon which I flattered myself, I managed to learn. with- 
out being too impertinent, that he had obliged a fellow- 
paMeoger, two years previously, who was getting off at 
Acapulco, and who desired gold for his paper money, 
with the specie, and had taken of him gome two or 
three thousand dollars of New York currency, which 
he had disposed of to the Express Company. 

Burton was right, then ! My heart leaped to my 
throat as the gentleman mentioned Acapulco. From 



BE-EMBARKED. 253 

that moment I felt less fear of failure, but more, if pos- 
sible, intense curiosity and anxiety. 

It had been my intention to proceed to Sacramento 
in search of the haunting face which was forever glid- 
ing before my mind's eye ; but, after this revelation, I 
gladly yielded to the belief that Mr. Burton would find 
the face before I did ; and, in the relief consequent up- 
on this hope, I began to give more heed to his injunction, 
to do my part of the duty by taking good care of his 
child. 

Lenore was in rising health and spirits, and when I 
began to exert myself to help her pass away the time, 
she grew very happy. The confiding dependence of 
childhood is its most affecting trait. It was enough for 
her that her father had given her to me for the present ; 
she felt safe and joyous, and made all those little de- 
mands upon my attention which a sister asks of an 
older brother. I could hardly realize that she was 
nearly thirteen years of age, she remained so small and 
slender, and was so innocently childlike in her manners 
and feelings. Her attendant was one of those active 
women who like nothing so much as plenty of business 
responsibility ; the trip, to her, was full of the kind of 
excitement she preferred ; the entire charge of the little 
maiden intrusted to her care, was one of the most de- 
lightful accidents that ever happened to her ; I believe 
she rejoiced daily in the absence of Mr. Burton, simply 
because it added to the importance of her duties. 

But I was glad when the fortnight's long delay was 
over, and we were reembarked upon our journey. 
My mind lived in advance of the hour, dwelling upon 
the moment when I should either see, awaiting us on 
the dock, where he had promised to meet us, at the 
isthmus, the familiar form of the good genius of our 
party, or that blank which would announce tidings of 
fatal evil. 



254 THE DEAD LETTER. 

Wo glided prosperously over the rounded swells of 
the Pacific, through sunshiny days, and nights of bril- 
liant moonlight. Through tin- soft evenings, Lenore, 
well wrapped in shawls and hood ly her faithful wo- 
man, remained with me upon deck, sometimes until 
quite late, singing, one after another, those delicious 
melodies never more subtly, nudei-standingly rendered, 
than by this small spirit of song. Rapt crowds would 
gather, at respectful distances, to listen ; but she sung 
for mv sake, and for the music's, unheeding who came 
or went. Sometimes, even now, I wake at night from 
a dream of that voyage, with the long wake of glit- 
tering silver following the ship, a< if a million I'eris, in 
their boats of pearl, were sailing after u^, drawn on by 
the enchantment of the pure voice which rose and fell 
between stars aini 

The last twenty-four hours before reaching the isth- 
mus witneN-ed a change in the long stretch of brilliant 
weather common at that sca>on <,\' the year. Torrents 
of rain began to fall, and continued hour after hour, 
shutting us in the cabin, and surrounding us with a 
gray wall, which was a* if some solid world had 
closed us in. and we wen- nevermore to see blue sky, 
thin air, or the sharp rays of the sun. 

Lenore, wearied of the monotony, at length fell 
asleep on one of the s..fa- ; and I was glad to ha\e her 
<|iiiet, for she had been restless at the prospect <>t 
ing her father early the next morning. It was ex- 
pected the steamer would reach her dock some time 
after midnight. As the hours of the day and evening 
wore on. I grew so impatient as to f.-el -nir >cate<l by 
the narrow bounds of the -hip, and the close, gray tent 
of clouds. Lenore went early to her Mate-room. I 
then borrowed a waterproof cloak from one of the 

HI of the vessel, ;ui'l walked the decks the whole 

night, in the driving rain, for I could not breathe in my 



ANOTHER RAINY NIGHT. 255 

little room. It was so possible, so probable, that harm 
had befallen the solitary detective, setting forth, " a 
stranger in a strange land," upon his dangerous errand, 
that I blamed myself bitterly for yielding to his wishes, 
and allowing him to remain at Acapulco. In order to 
comfort myself, I recalled his ability to cope with 
danger his physical strength, his unshaken coolness 
of nerve and mind, his calmness of purpose and indom- 
itable will, before which the wills of other men were 
broken like reeds by a strong wind. The incessant 
rain recalled two other memorable nights to me ; and 
the association did not serve to make me more cheer- 
ful. There Avas no wind whatever, with the rain ; the 
captain assured me, after I had asked him often enough 
to vex a less question-inured officer, for the twentieth 
time, that we were " all right" " not a half-hour after 
time" " would arrive at the isthmus at two o'clock, 
A.M., precisely, and I might go to bed in peace, and be 
ready to get up early in the morning." 

I had no idea of going to bed. The passengers were 
not to be disturbed until daylight ; but I was too anx- 
ious to think of sleep ; I said to myself that if Mr. 
Burton was as impatient as myself, he would, despite 
the storm and the late hour, be upon the dock awaiting 
our arrival ; and if so, he should not find me slumber- 
ing. As we neared our landing, I crowded in among 
the sailors at the forward part of the boat, and strained 
my eyes through the gloom to the little twinkle of 
light given out by the lamps along the quay. As 
usual, there was considerable stir and noise, upon the 
arrival of the steamer, shouts from the ship and shore, 
and a bustle of ropes and swearing of sailors. The 
passengers generally were snug in their berths, where 
they remained until morning. In a few moments the 
ropes were cast ashore and we were moored to our 
dock. I leaned over the gunwale and peered through 



256 THE DEAD LETTER. 

the mist ; the rain lia<l kindly ceased descending, for 
the time ; various lamps and lanterns glimmered along 
the wharf, where some persons were busy about their 
work, pertaining to the arrival of the ship ; but I 
looked in vain for Mr. Burton. 

Disappointed, despondent, I still reconnoitered the 
various groups, when a loud, cheery voice called out, 

"Richard, halloo!" 

I experienced a welcome revulsion of feeling as these 
pleasant tones startled me to the consciousness that 
Mr. Burton had emerged from the shadow of a lamp- 
post, against which he had been leaning, and was now 
almost within shaking-hands distance. I could have 
laughed or cried, whichever happened, as I recognized 
the familiar voice and form. Presently he was on the 
vessel. The squeeze I gave his hand, when we met, 
must have been severe, for he winced under it. I 
scarcely needed to say " You have been successful !'' 
or he $o answer; there was a light on his lace which 
assured me that at least he had not entirely failed. 

"I have much, much to tell you, Hit-hard. But first 
about my darling is she well happy ?" 

"Both. We have not had an accident. You will 
be surprised to see Lenore, she has improved so rapidly. 
My In-art !<<!< a thousand pounds lighter than it did 
an hour ago." 

"Why so?" 

" Oh, I was so afraid you had not got away from 
Acapulco." 

" You do look pale, that's a fact, Richard as if you 
had not slept for a week. Let your mind rest in 
quiet, my friend. All in ri'jftt. The trij> has not l.eni 
1. Xo\v let God give us favoring breezes home, 
and two years of honest effort hall be r -\vanli !. ^\\> 
tiee shall be done. The wicked in high places shall bo 
brought low." 



MB. BURTON'S EXPERIENCES. 257 

He always spoke as if impressed with an awful 
sense of his responsibility in bringing the iniquities of 
the favored rich to light ; and on this occasion his ex- 
pression was unusually earnest. 

" Where is my little girl ? What is the number of 
her state-room ? I would like to steal a kiss before 
she wakes ; but I suppose that careful Marie has the 
door bolted and barred; so I will not disturb them. 
It is three whole hours to daylight yet. I can tell you 
the whole story of my adventures in that time, and I 
suppose you have a right to hear it as soon as pos- 
sible. I will not keep you in suspense. Come into 
the cabin." 

We found a quiet corner, where, in the " wee sma' 
hours," by the dim light of the cabin-lamps, now 
nearly out$ I listened, it is needless to say with what 
painful interest, to the account of Mr. Burton's visit 
in Mexico. I will give the history here, as he gave it, 
with the same reservations which, it was evident, he 
still made in talking with me. 

These reservations which I could not fail to per- 
ceive he had frequently made, since the beginning 
of our acquaintance, and which, the reader will re- 
collect, had at times excited my indignation puz- 
zled and annoyed me ; but there was soon to come 
a time when I understood and appreciated them. 

On that day of our outwai'd voyage, when the ship 
was detained to land a portion of her passengers at 
Acapulco, Mr. Burton, restless at the delay, was lean- 
ing over the deck-rails, thrumming impatiently with 
his fingers, when his attention became gradually ab- 
sorbed in the conversation of a group of Mexicans at 
his elbow, several of whom were of the party about 
to land. They spoke the corrupted Spanish of their 
country ; but the listener understood it well enough 
to comprehend the most of what was said. 



258 THE DEAD LETTER. 

One of their number -was describing a scene which 
occurred upon his landing at this same port some 
two years previous. The ship, bound for San Fran- 
cisco, met with an accident, and put into Aeapulco for 
repairs. The passengers knowing tin- steamer would 
not sail under twenty-four hours, the most of them 
broke the monotony of the delay by going on shore. 
A number of rough New Yorkers, going .out to the 
mines, got into a quarrel with some of the natives, 
during which knives, pistols, etc., were freely used. A 
gentleman, named Don .Miguel, the owner of a large 
and valuable hacienda which lay about thirty miles 
from Acapulco, and who had just landed from the 
steamer, attempted, imprudently, to interfere, not wish- 
ing his countrymen to lie IO touchy with their \isitors, 
rind was rewarded tor hi -ood intentions by r. 
ing a severe 8tal> in the side from one >f the com- 
batants, lie bled profus ly, and would soon have 
become exhausted, had not his wound been immediately 
and well dressed by a young American, one of tin- 
New York passengers, who had lauded to see the 
Bight*, and was standing idly to one side, viewing the 
mcl&e at the time Don Miguel was injured. The Don, 
exceedingly grateful for the timely attention, conceived 
a warm liking for the young man, \\ho-e-Yankee" 
quickness and readiness had attracted his attention 
while on board the -(earner. Ha\iip_r -/ncii such pro,.f 
of hi- fitness for the place as he had done by dre-Hii'_r 
the I)..n's wound, that gentleman, in the cour-e of the 
two or three hours in which the young stranger re- 
mained in attendance upon him, offered him the -itua-. 
tiou of physician upon his immense Wtfttei, with the 
j.lain promise that he should reeei\e benefits much 
more important than hi- -alary. This olVer, after a 
short hesitation, was accepted by the doctor, who 
Stated that ho was out in search of his fortune, and it 



AN INTEBESTING STORY. 259 

made no difference to him where he found it, whether 
in Mexico or California, only that he should be assured 
of doing Avell. This Don Miguel, in his sudden friend- 
ship, was prompt to promise. The Don, besides vast 
grazing farms, had extensive intei-ests in the silver 
mines which bordered upon his hacienda. Doctor 
Seltzer was deeply interested in an account of these, 
and returned to the ship for his baggage, bidding his 
fello w -passengers good-by, in excellent spirits. " And 
well he might consider himself fortunate," continued 
the narrator, " for there are none of us who do not 
feel honored by the friendship of Don Miguel, who is 
as honorable as he is wealthy. " For my part, I do not 
understand how he came to place such confidence in 
the ' Yankee' doctor, who had to me the air of an ad- 
venturer ; but he took him to his home, made him a 
member of his family, and before I left Acapulco, I 
heard that Don Miguel had given him for a wife his 
only daughter, a beautiful girl, who could have had her 
choice of the proudest young bloods in this region." 

It may be imagined with what interest Mr. Burton 
listened to the story thus unconsciously revealed by 
the chatty Mexican. He at once, as by prescience, saw 
his man in this fortunate Dr. Seltzer, who had regis- 
tered his name Mr., not Dr., on the passenger-list, and 
which name- was among those that the detective had 
selected as suspicious. 

(I interrupted my friend's narrative here to explain 
the matter of the bank-notes which he had exchanged 
for specie with a passenger, but found that Mr. Burton 
already knew all about them.) 

Edging gradually into the conversation, Mr. Burton, 
with his tact and experience, was not long in drawing 
from the group a description of. the personal appear- 
ance of Dr. Seltzer, along with all the facts and con- 
jectures relating to his history since his connection 



260 THE DEAD LETTER. 

with Don Miguel. Everything he heard made " assu- 
rance doubly sure ;" and there was no time to be lost 
in deciding upon the course to be pursued in this unex- 
pected doubling of the chase. To get off at Acapulco 
was a matter of course ; but what to do with the re- 
mainder of his party he could not at first determine. He 
knew that I would be eager to accompany him ; yet he 
feared that, in some way, should we all land and take 
rooms at any of the hotels, the wily Doctor Seltzer, 
doubtless always on the alert, mi^ht ]>c-rceive some 
cause for alarm, and secure safety by flight. To go 
alone, under an assumed name, in the character of a 
scientific explorer of mines, seemed to him the surest 
and most discreet method of nearing the game ; and 
to this resolve he had come before he sought us out 
to announce his intention of stopping at Acapulco, 
while leaving us to pursue our voyage without him. 



SELF-BELIANT. 261 



CHAPTER VI. 

AT LAST AT LAST. 

As our ship steered away out into the open sea, Mr. 
Burton walked up into the ruinous old Spanish town, 
and stopped at the hotel, in whose breezy corridor he 
found several of his traveling companions, who had 
preceded him. These persons had been somewhat sur- 
prised at his desertion of the rest of his party for a 
visit to their decayed city ; but when he explained to 
them his desire of visiting some of their deserted 
mines, and examining the character of the mountainous 
region, a little back, before proceeding to similar in- 
vestigations in California, their wonder gave place to 
the habitual indolence of temperaments hardly active 
enough for curiosity. There were two or three persons 
from the United States stopping at the hotel, who 
quickly made his acquaintance, eager for news direct 
from home, and while he conversed with these the four 
o'clock dinner was announced. He sipped his choco- 
late leisurely, after the dessert, chatting at ease with 
his new friends ; and upon expressing a desire to see 
more of the old town, one of them offered to accom- 
pany him upon a walk. They strolled out among cool 
palm groves, and back through the dilapidated streets, 
made picturesque by some processions of Catholics, 
winding through the twilight with their torches, until 
the moon arose and glimmered on the restless ocean. 

Most persons, on business similar to Mr. Burton's, 
would have gone at once to the American consul for 
his assistance ; but he felt himself fully equal to the 
emergency, and desired no aid in the enterprise which 
he was about to prosecute. Therefore he refused the 



262 THE DEAD LETTER. 

invitation of his companion to call upon tin- consul ; 
and finally returned to his hotel, to sit awhile in the 
open, moonlit corridor, before retiring to his room, 
where he lay loni; awake, pondering upon the steps to 
be taken next day, and somewhat disturbed by the 
open doors and windows, which were the order of the 
establishment. 

Ho was awakened from his first slumber by the cold 
nose of a dog rubbed in his tare, and from his second 
by ft lizard creeping over him ; but not bciiiir a nervous 
map, he contrived to sleep soundly at last. lie was 
served, early in the morning, with a cup of o'tVee in 
his apartment, and before the late breakfast wa* ivady, 
he had been abroad ami concluded his arrangements 
for a visit to the estates of Don Miguel. Kverybody 
knew that ircntleman by reputation ; and lie had u<> 
difficulty in securing the services of two half-naked, 
la/y-looking native Indians, to act as guides, who, \\ ith 
th'-ee forlorn mules, dest'riied to carry the party, were 
at the door when he finished his repast, lie was 
w.irned to go well armed, as, though the route to Don 
Miguel's was an old one, often traveled, there wa al- 
ways more or less danger in that country. A pistol or 
t\\ would not bo out of place, if only to keep his shifi- 
less guides in order. Mr. Burton thanked his advi-ers, 
told them he feared nothing, and set out upon his long, 
Lot and tedious ride thirty miles on mnlcback. under 
a southern sun, being something more of a task than 
he had ever known a journey of that length to be 
hitherto. At noon he took a rest of a couple of hours 
at a miserable inn by the wayside, and a dinner of fried 
tortillas, rendered tolerable by a dessert of limes, ba- 
nanas and oranges. With a supply of this cooling 
fruit in his pockets, he braved the afternoon sun, deter- 
mined to reach the hacienda before dark. As he 
neared his destination, the character of the country 



DON MIGUEL. 263 

changed. The broad road, cut through groves of palm, 
and fields of corn, with orchards of figs and peaches, 
grew more narrow and uneven, and the surface of the 
ground more broken. Before him loomed up hills, 
growing higher as they retreated, some of the glitter- 
ing peaks seeming to glisten with snow. A cool, re- 
freshing air swept down from them ; the scenery, al- 
though wilder, was beautiful and romantic in the ex- 
treme. Wearied as he was with the conduct of a mule 
which was no disgrace to the reputation of its species, 
Mr. Burton enjoyed the magnificent scene which opened 
before him, as he approached the hacienda of Don 
Miguel. It lay at the foot of a low mountain, first of 
the brotherhood which overtopped it, and stood look- 
ing over its shoulder. Rich plains, some of them 
highly cultivated, and others covered with the grazing 
herds of a thousand cattle, lay at the foot of the hill, 
which was heavily timbered, and down which leaped a 
sparkling cascade, not more beautiful to the eye than 
promising of freshness to the pastures below, and of 
" water-privileges" to the mines understood to lay 
somewhere in the canons of the mountain. 

Before entering upon the estates which he had now 
reached, Mr. Burton secured a night's lodging for his 
peons, at a hovel by the roadside, and having abun- 
dantly rewarded them, dismissed them from his service, 
riding forward alone along the private carriage-way, 
which, through groves of flowering trees and fragrant 
peach-orchards, led up to the long, low, spacious man- 
sion of Don Miguel. 

By the servant who came forth to receive him he 
was informed that the master of the place was at home, 
and was soon shown into his presence, in the cool, tile- 
floored sitting-room, in which he was lounging, wait- 
ing for the supper-hour. 

Mr. Burton's powers of pleasing were too great, and 
12 



264 THE DEAD LETTER. 

his refinement too real, for him to fail in making the 
impression he desired upon the gentleman into whose 
house he had intruded himself. The cold courtesy with 
which he was at first received, soon took a tinge of 
warmth, and it was with sincere cordiality that Don 
Miguel offered him the hospitalities of his home, 
and full liberty to make all the researches he 
might desire upon his estate. The habitual dislike of 
the Spaniard for "los Yankees," M-rmrd .|iiite over- 
come in the case of Don Miguel, by his friendship for 
his son-in-law, of whom he soon spoke, anticipating the 
pleasure it would give Dr. Seltzer to meet a ijentleinaii 
so recently from his old home, New York. On this 
account he made the stranger doubly welcome. Mr. 
Burton was interested in his host, ami liked him, per- 
cei\ im_r him to l>e intelligent, generous ami enthusiast ic ; 
his heart rebuked him when lie thought of the mission 
upon which he had COine into this little retired Para- 
dise, so remote from the world and so lovely in itself 
that it did seem as if evil ought to have forgotten it. 

The two had conversed nearly an hour, when Don 
Miguel said, 

"It is now our supper-hour. Allow a servant to 
show you to your apartment, where we will give you 
time to at least bathe your face and hands after your 
weary ride. 1 was to entertained with the news that 
you bring me from the States that I have negl. 
your comfort. Dr. Seltzer went up on the mountain, to- 
day, to look after our mining interest* a little, but I 
expect his return every moment. He will be charmed 
to meet a countryman." 

This last assertion Mr. Burton doubted, for he knew 
that the remorse of a guilty conscience stung the pos- 
sessor into a restlessness which made any unexpected 
event a matter of suspicion. As the door cloned upon 
him in the large, airy chamber into which he was 



THE BEAUTIFUL WIFE. 265 

ushered, he sunk, for a few moments, into a chair, and 
something like a tremor shook his usually steady nerves. 
He stood so close upon the probable accomplishment 
of the object he had kept in view for two years, that, 
for an instant, excitement overcame him. He soon 
rallied, however, and at the end of fifteen minutes, 
when the peon came in again to announce supper, he 
had toned up his courage with a plentiful dash of 
cold water, and was never more his own peculiar self, 
than when he set foot in the supper-room. A glance 
told him that the absent member of the family had not 
yet returned ; only two persons were present, his host, 
and the beautiful woman whom he introduced as his 
daughter, Mrs. Seltzer. The three sat down to the 
table, which was covered with an elegant repast, the 
first dish of which was a fine-flavored roast wild-turkey. 

There was a plentiful supply of porcelain and silver- 
ware ; it did not take five seconds for the guest to de- 
cide that the quondam druggist of Blankville if this 
were indeed the person, as he assumed with such cer- 
tainty had gotten himself into enviable quarters. 

As his penetrating glance rested on the exquisite face 
which confronted him across the " pale specter of the 
salt," he kept asking himself, with inward anguish, why 
it was that he had not circumvented this adventurer 
sooner, before the young, girlish creature he saw before 
him had involved her fate with that of the guilty. 

Beautiful as our dreamiest fancies of Spanish women 
she was, according to the report of Mr. Burton, and he 
was no enthusiast. He saw that she was as uneasy as 
a bird which misses its mate, her black eyes constantly 
wandering to the door, and her ear so preoccupied with 
listening for the expected step as scarcely to take note 
of the remarks made to her by the stranger. Once she 
asked him, with much interest, if he had known Dr. 
Seltzer in New York, but upon his answering in the 



266 THE DEAD LETTER. 

.negative, he could guess that he had fallen in her esteem, 
Mbr she immediately withdrew her attention from 
him. 

The senses of the guest were all keenly on the alert ; 
but it was by the sudden fire which leaped and melted 
in the eyes of the Donna, and the rich color which shot 
into her hitherto olive cheek, that he was informed of 
the approach of her husband. She had heard the rapid 
gallop of his horse afar oft', and now sat. mute and ex- 
pectant, until he should arrive at the irate. rr<>-- the 
veranda and enter the room. In three minutes he -i,,,,,l 
in the supper-room. The visitor met him just in the 
manner he would have most desired when the man 
wa-< entirely unwarned of company, and had no chance 
to put on a mask. Outwardly .Mr. Uurtoii was serene 
as a summer day, but inwardly his teeth wen- set upon 
each other to keep his tongue from crying out" T/iis 
M the manF When Dr. Selt/.er fust percched a stran- 
ger in the room, and heard his father-in-law sa\ . "A 
countryman of yours, from New York, doctor," his 
Blight start of surprise would, to most persons, have 
appeared no more than natural ; but the per-oii whose 
Courteous eye met his, saw in it the fir-t impulse of an 
ever-ready apprehension -an alarm, covered instantly 
by a false warmth of manner which caused him ! 
the stranger wth extreme friendlii 

The new-comer retired for a moment to his room to 
prepare for the meal ; upon his taking his place at table, 
hot dishes were brought in; the Donna seemed also to 
have recovered her appetite, \\hich had been spoiled by 
his absence; a gay and social hour folloucd. 

Dr. Seltzer might have been L'""d-l..okinLr had his 

eyes not poWCWO'l the shifting, uncertain Lrl.ni.-.- that, 

ft before a soul which dares not. frankly meet its 

fellows, and had not an evil expression predominated on 

his features. His face was one which would hav. 



DETAILS. 267 

distrusted in any intelligent company of our own people; 
but the Spaniards, with whom he was now associated, 
were so accustomed to treachery and untruth among 
their race, and so familiar with kindred features and 
subtle black eyes, that he, doubtless, had never impress- 
ed them unfavorably. A Spaniard he was at heart, and 
he had found, in his present life, a congenial sphere. 
Not that all Spaniards are necessarily murderers but 
their code of right and wrong is different from ours. 
Don Miguel was an excellent gentleman, honorable, to 
an unusual degree for a Mexican, real and sanguine in 
his feelings, and thoroughly deceived as to the charac- 
ter and acquirements of the person to whom he had 
confided so much. It was the bitter flavor in the cup 
of his assured triumph that Mr. Burton, in bringing the 
villain to bay, must shock this amiable host, and ruin 
the happiness of his innocent child. 

After supper, they sat on the veranda a couple of 
hours. The half-filled moon sunk down behind the 
groves of fragrant trees ; the stars burned in the sky, 
large, and, to a Northern eye, preternaturally bright ; 
the wind was luscious with warmth and sweetness ; 
and the beautiful woman, whose soft eyes dwelt ever on 
the face of her husband, looked yet more lovely in the 
clear moonlight. (Through all the eai'nestness of his 
story, my friend dwelt on these details, because he ob- 
served them at the time, and they became a part of the 
narrative in his mind.) 

The conversation was principally upon mining. Mr. 
Burton had sufficient scientific knowledge to make it 
apparent that his exploring expedition was for the pur- 
pose of adding to that knowledge. Before they sepa- 
rated for the night, Dr. Seltzer had promised to escort 
him, on the following day, over all the mountainous 
portion of the ranch. 

The visitor retired early, being fatigued with his 



268 THE DEAD LETTER. 

journey; bnt he did not sleep us quietly as usual. He 
wa- disturbed by the oneron>. duty to \\hich IK- had de- 
votcd himself. Visions of tin- DUDIIM. pale with trrief 
and reproach, and of tin- interview which In- had re- 
solved upon with the murderer, alone on the mountain- 
side, when, by the force of will, and the suddenness . >f t he 
accusation, he expected to wring from him the desired 
confession kept him long awake. Once, lie half rose 
in his bed ; for, lying in that feverish condition when 
all the senses arc exalted, lie heard, or fancied he heard, 
the handle of the door turned, and a person step silently 
into the apartment. Knowing the thievish propcositiei 
of the Spanish servants, he had no doubt Imt one of 
these had entered for purposes of robber v : he the: 
remained quiet, but ready t<> pounce upon the intruder 
should he detect him approaching the bed. The room 
was entirely dark, the moon having set some time be- 
fore. Whether he made some sound when rising on 
his couch, or whether the visitor gave up his purpose 
at the last moment, he could only conjecture; alter 
some moments of absolute silence he heard the do,,r 
drawn softly together again, and was eons, -inns of being 
alone. Soon after this he dropped asleep, and au oke 
in the dawn to find his purse and garments undis- 
turbed. 

He was summoned to an early breakfast, which was 
partaken of by the two excursionists alone ; his com- 
panion was, if possible, more social and friendly than 
on the previous evening. It was yet hardly sunrise 
when they arose from the table to mount the horses 

which awaited them at the door. A basket of lunch 
Was attached to the pummel of 1 )r. Selt/.ci "s saddle, 
whose parting injunction to the servant wa 
dinner at four, as they should .stand in need of it 
upon their return. Then, through a world of dew, 
coolness and perfume, glittering with the first rays 



SHOWING THE MINES. 269 

of the sun, the two men rode off toward the moun- 
tains. 

After following a good road some five or six miles, 
they commenced climbing the first of the series of hills 
?of which mention has been made. The road here was 
still tolerable ; but when they advanced into the im- 
mediate region of the mines they were compelled to 
abandon their horses, which were left at a small build- 
ing, belonging to the ranch, and to proceed on foot 
into the mountain gorges. 

The scenery now became wild beyond mere pic- 
turesqueness it was startling, desolate, grand. Traces 
of old mines, once worked, but now deserted, were 
everywhere visible. Finally they came to a new 
" lead," which was being successfully worked by the 
peons of Don Miguel. There were some forty of 
these men at work, under an overseer. Dr. Seltzer 
showed his companion the recent improvements which 
had been made ; the machinery which he himself had 
introduced, and a portion of which he had invented ; 
stating that, under the system which he himself had 
introduced, Don Miguel was growing a rich man faster 
than he previously had any idea was possible. The 
mountain-stream, spoken of as being visible at a great 
distance, glittering from hight to bight, was here 
made to do the unromantic work of washing the ore 
and grinding it. The overseer was called upon by the 
host to give every desirable information to the traveler, 
and here a long visit was made. Lunch was partaken 
of under the cool shadow of a ledge of rock ; and 
then Dr. Seltzer proposed, if his visitor was not already 
too much fatigued, to take him higher up, to a spot 
which he had discovered only the day before, and which 
he had every reason to believe contained a richer de- 
posit of silver than any vein heretofore opened in 
fact, he thought a fortune lay hidden in the wild gorge 



270 THE DEAD LETTER. 

to which he referred, and he anxiously invited the sci- 
entific observation of his guest. 

This was just (hi- opportunity f<>r IK-'HILJ alone with 
his man that Mr. Burton doired. It may seem M ran ire. 
that he proposed to confront the murderer with his 
guilt in this solitary manner with no witnesses to cor- 
roborate any testimony he miirht wriiiLT from llio 
guilty; but the detect ive knew enou'_rh of human na- 
ture to know that the confronted criminal is almost 
always a coward, and he had no fear that this person, 
if guilty, accused of his false name and falser character, 
would refuse to do what he demanded of him. Again, 
his principal object, more important 1>\ far than the 
very of the actual hired assassin, was to gain 
from the frightened accomplice a full, explicit confes- 
sion of who had tetnj>tt<l him t<> //// crime who \\.i- 
really the most guilty murderer whose money had 
paid for the dred which his own dastardly hand had 
shrunk from. Strong in resources which never yet had 
failed him, .Mr. Burton was anxious for the singular 
encounter he iiad dc\i>ed. 

\ing all traces of man behind them, the two 
climbed a nigged path, and entered a canon, through 
the center of which roared M foaming torrent, and which 
WM BO deep and sheltered that c\ en at this noon-hour 
the path was cool and the sunlight tempered. As they 
walked or clambered on, both men gradually grew 
silent. Of what Dr. S.lt/.er might bo thinking .Mr. 
Burton did not know his own mind was absorbed in 
the scene which he was awaiting the carliiM lining 
moment to enact. The doctor, who should have a< t t <1 
as guide, had, somehow, chanced to lau Ix-hind. 

" Which direction shall I take ?" asked Mr. Burton, 

:itly. 

" .Wend the narrow deli!,- to the ri-rht," railed out 
hi* companion, pressing after him, " but be cautious of 



TURNED UPON. 271 

your footing. A misstep may hurl you upon the rocks 
below. In three minutes we shall be in a safe and 
beautiful region, with our feet, literally, treading a 
silver floor." 

As he spoke thus, he drew nearer, but the path was 
too narrow to allow him to take the advance, and Mr. 
Burton continued to lead the way. 

The subtle perceptions of the detective, a magnetism 
which amounted almost to the marvelous, I have so 
frequently referred to, that my reader will understand 
how it was that Mr. Burton, thus in the van, and not 
looking at all at his companion, felt a curious, prickly 
sensation run along his nerves. He came to the nar- 
rowest part of the dangerous path. An immense rock 
reached up, a mighty wall, upon the right, and to the 
left, far below the uneven, stony and brier-grown ledge 
along which he was picking his steps, foamed and 
roared the torrent, over rocks which thrust themselves 
here and there above the yeasty water. Directly in 
front arose an obstacle in the shape of a projection of 
the rock some three or four feet in hight, covered with 
tough little bushes, one of which he took hold of to 
draw himself up by. 

However, instead of pulling himself up, as his action 
seemed to indicate that he was about to do, he turned 
and grasped the arm of Dr. Seltzer. His movement 
was rapid as lightning, but it was not made a moment 
too soon. The arm which he held in a clasp of steel 
was raised to strike, and a Spanish dirk was in the hand. 

A stealthy, murderous light, almost red in its inten- 
sity, burned in the eyes which now sunk before his. 
An instant the foiled assassin stood surprised ; then 
commenced a struggle between the two men. Dr. 
Seltzer made desperate efforts to hurl his antagonist 
into the torrent beneath ; but, though frantic with rage 
and hate, his violent exertions did not effect their 
12* 



272 THE DEAD LETTER. 

object. On the contrary, Mr. Burton, calm and self- 
possessed, despite an instant's astonishment, pressed 
his adversary backward alon^ tin- narrow path until 
they were both on safe ground, in the middle of a little 
grassy plateau, which they had lately traversed, where 
he held him, having disarmed him of his knit'e. 

What had caused his momentary astonishment was 
the fact that Dr. Seltzer knew him and su>|.ected his 
object, which truth he instantly comprehended, upon 
turning and reading the murderous eyes that met his. 
Now, as he held him, he remarked, 

" Another stab in the back, George Thorley ?" 

" Well, and what did you come here for, you ac- 
cursed New York detective ?" 

" I came to persuade you to turn State's evidence." 

"What about?" there was a slight change in the 
voice, which told, against his will, that the adventurer 
felt relieved. 

" I want you to give your written and sworn toti- 
mony as to who it was hired you, for the sum of two 
thousand dollars, to murder Mr. Moreland, at Blank- 
ville, on the 17th of October, 1857." 

"Who said I murdered him? Humph! you must 
think I'm decidedly simple to be coaxed or frightened 
into committing myself." 

" We'll not waste words, Thorley. I know you, all 
your history, all your bad deeds or enough of them to 
hang you. I have a warrant for your arrest in my 
pocket, which I brought from the States with me. I 
could have brought an escort from Acapulco, and ar- 
rested you at once, without i\-\i\ you any chance for 
explanation. I'.ut I have my own reasons for desiring 
to keep this matter quiet one of which is that I do 
not wish any premature report to alarm }om accom- 
plice, man or woman, whichever it is, until I can put 
my hand on the right person." 



"A MAN'S LITE is HIS BEST POSSESSION." 2^3 

" What makes you think that I did it ?" 

" No matter what makes me think so I don't think, 
I know. I have the instrument with which you com- 
mitted the act, with your initials on the handle. I have 
the letter you wrote to your accomplice, claiming your 
reward. In short, I've proof enough to convict you 
twice over. The only hope you have of any mercy 
from me is in at once doing all that I ask of you 
which is to give a full written statement, over your 
real name, of all the circumstances which led to the 
murder." 

" I'm not such a fool as to tie the rope around my 
own neck." 

As he made this answer, he gave a powerful jerk to 
extricate himself from the unpleasant position in which 
he was held. Mr. Burton drew a revolver from his 
breast-pocket, remarking, 

" I will not hold you, Thorley ; but just as sure as 
you make an attempt to get away, I will shoot you. 
Supposing you succeeded in getting free from me 
what good would that do you ? Your prospects here 
would be ruined ; for I should expose you to Don 
Miguel. You would have to flee from wife, country 
and fortune; all you would preserve would be your 
rascally life, which I do not propose, at present, to 
take." 

" A man's life is his best possession." 

" A truth you would have done well to remember 
before you took away the life of another. I can't talk 
to such a scoundrel as you, Thorley ; I fairly ache to 
inflict upon you the punishment you deserve. It is for 
the sake of others, in whom I am interested, that I give 
you this one chance of mercy. Here is paper, pen and 
ink ; sit down on that stone there, and write what I ask- 
ed of you." 

"What security do you offer me against the 



274 THE DEAD LETTER. 

consequences of criminating myself? I want you to 
promise I shall In- none the w<r>c oil' for it." 

u You are too fully in my power to 1 
of me. Yet this I will consent to, M I >:ii.l l.i-1'..iv, f..r 
the sake of others to let you 140 unprU.n, >i 1,\ the 
warrant I hold against you, and never to put the ofli- 
cers of justice on your track. One tiling. however, I 
must and shall do. I can not leave this Paradise, into 
which you have crept like the serpent, without warning 
Don 3Iiiruel what manner of creature he is ini.-tingand 

sheltering." 

" Oh, don't do that, Mr. Burton ! He'll turn me off 
on the world again, and I shall be exposed to the same 
temptations as ever and here I was leading a better 
life I was indeed reformed, quite reformed and re- 
pentant." 

"So reformed and repentant, so very excellent, that 
you were only prevented, but now, from killing me and 
tumbling me into this convenient ravine, by my own 
prudence." 

" Every thing was at stake, you know. I was des- 
perate. You must forgive me. It would not lie natu- 
ral for me to submit to see all I had trained snatched 
auay from me my life periled. I reco^ni/.ed y,,ii 
within live minutes after sitting down to the supper- 
table last night." 

"I had no idea you had ever M-CU me." said M . 
Burton, willing to hear how it was that this man 
knew him, when he had never met Thorley until yes- 
t.T.lay. 

"I was interested, once, in a forgery case in which 
yon were employed to detect the criminals, by the ex- 
amination of several handwritings which were iriven 
you. You accused a highly respectable fellow-. -iti/fn, 
to the astonishment of everybody, and corniced l.im, 
too. I, whom he had employed as an ::^e.jt in some 



"NO LIES." 275 

transactions, but who did not appear in any manner in 
the case, saw you in the court-room once or twice. I 
accidentally found out that you were a secret agent of 
the' detective police. When I saw you here, playing 
the scientific gentleman, my conscience was not so easy 
as to blind me. I saw the game, and what was at 
stake. I had the choice between my own safety or 
yours. I wasn't so self-denying as to decide in your 
favor, and so " 

" You visited my room last night." 

" Yes. But, on second thought, I decided that to-day 
would give me the better opportunity. Had you waited 
a second longer, your friends would have had a hard 
time tracing your fate. An excuse to my father-in-law, 
that you had returned to Acapulco without stopping, 
by a nearer route, would have ended inquiry here." 
He set his teeth, as he concluded, unable to conceal how 
much he regretted that this convenient denouement had 
been interrupted. " Was it chance caused you to turn ?" 
he continued, after a moment's silence. 

" It was watchfulness. I thought I saw murder in 
your eyes once before, to-day, when I met them sud- 
denly ; but as I believed myself unknown .to you, I 
could hardly credit my own impression. It grew upon 
me, however, as we proceeded, and ' by the pricking of 
my ribs,' I turned in time to prevent the compliment 
you were about to pay me. But this is wasting time. 
Write what I expect of you. I shall permit no lies. 
I can tell when I see one, or hear one. If you say 
any thing which is not true, I shall make you correct 
it." 

Coerced by the eye which never ceased to watch his 
slightest movement, and by the revolver held in range 
of his breast, the reluctant doctor took the sheet of 
paper and the fountain-pen which were offered him, sat 
down on the stone, and, with the top of his sombrero 



276 THE DEAD LETTER. 

for a desk, wrote slowly for ten or fifteen minutes. 
Then he arose and handed the document, which was 
signed with his real name, to the detective, who, with 
one eye on his prisoner, 'and one on the paper, continued 
to read the evidence without giving his companion a 
chance to profit by any relaxation of his vigilance. 

" You have told the truth, for once in your lite," was 
his remark, as he finished reading the paper. u I had 
found this out myself, fact for fact, all but one or two 
facts which you give here ; but I preferred having your 
testimony before I brought the matter before the proper 
parties, therefore I came here after it " speaking as if 
a trip to Acapulco were one of the easiest and most 
commonplace of things. 

" You're d d cool about it," remarked the adven- 
turer, eying his adversary with a glance of hate, with 
which was mingled a forced admiration of a "sharp- 
ness" which, had he himself possessed it, he could 
have used to such advantage. "And now, maybe 
you'll be good enough to tell me if the affair kicked up 
much of a row." 

"I can not talk with you. I want you to lead the 
way back to our horses, for, since my business with 
you is finished, I may say that I do not fancy your 
company. You must go with me before Don Miguel, 
and we will enlighten him as to your true charac- 
ter, since with him to be ' forewarned may be fore- 
armed.' " 

" Oh, don't do that 1 I beg you to spare me for my 
wife's sake it would kill her, she loves me so much !" 
and the creature dropped on his knees. 

"I would, indeed, rather than blast her innocent 
heart with such knowledge, allow you still to play your 
part in that little family, but I know that, sooner or 
later, you will contrive to break the heart of that con- 
fiding woman, and it might be worse in the future than 



AN UNPLEASANT DUTY. 277 

even now. She has yet no children ; she is young, and 
the wound may heal. It is an unpleasant duty, which I 
must perform." 

Then followed a scene of begging, prayers, even tears 
upon one side, and relentless purpose on the other. 



278 THK DEAD LETTKB. 



CHAPTER VII. 

NOW FOB HOME AGAIN. 

DB. SELTZEB and his scientific friend returned down tho 
mountain, reaching the flowery carriage-way which led 
up to the mansion about four p. M. ; but here the former 
suddenly whirled his horse and set off toward Aeapul- 
co, at his utmost speed. Mr. Burton did not I'm :it 
him, to stop him ; if he wished to run away from the 
horrible exposure which he had not tbeoOQFftgQ t> lace, 
it was no longer any business ol' the detective. This 
very flight would prove his guilt the more inrontest- 
ably. It was with a pang oi' pity that he- noticed the 
Donna, coming forth on the pia/./.a with a face illumined 
with expectation of meeting her husband ; lie replied to 
her inquiry, that the doctor had gone down the road 
without saying how long he expected to be gone ; a*nd 
asking a private interview with Don Miguel, he at once, 
without circumlocution, laid before him the painful 
facts. 

Of course the Don was shocked and grieved beyond 
expression, more on his daughter's account than n his 
own; and blamed himself severely for having intro- 
duced a stranger, without proper credentials, into his 
confidence. If the murder had been eoiimiitted from 
jealousy, anger, or upon any impulse of passion, he 
would not have thought so badly of the young man ; 
but that it should have )>< u done for money was to 
him an irreparable crime and disgrace. 

Mr. Burton had thought <>f returning to Acapulco 
that afternoon and evening, considering that his pres- 
ence could not be welcome to the family under such 
circumstances; but Don Miguel positively forbade him 



DON MIGUEL'S LOSS. 279 

to attempt the journey at that late hour, as it might 
be dangerous at any time, and now, if the doctor wish- 
ed to revenge himself upon his betrayer, a better op- 
portunity could not occur than on this lonely road, 
where he might linger in the expectation of his passing. 
From the interview which followed between the father 
and his child, Mr. Burton was absent ; he saw no more 
of the beautiful young wife, for he left the hacienda 
early the following morning ; but her father informed 
him that she bore the news better than he expected 
simply because she refused to believe in the guilt of 
her husband ! 

Don Miguel and two of his servants accompanied 
Mr. Burton all the way back to town ; the Don affirm- 
ing that he had some business requiring a visit to the 
city sooner or later ; though his guest knew very well 
that his real object was to protect hihi from any danger 
wli'u-h might threaten. For this he was grateful, 
though his courage did not shrink, even from the idea 
of secret assassination. 

He was detained in Acapulco several days before he 
had an opportunity of leaving for the isthmus. During 
that time he learned, by a messenger whom Don Miguel 
sent him, that, during the Don's absence from the 
house in the two days of his journey to town and back, 
Dr. Seltzer had returned there, possessed himself of 
every ai'ticle of value which he could carry away upon 
his person, including the Donna's jewels, which she had 
inherited from her mother, and a large sum in gold, and 
had persuaded his wife to accompany his flying fortunes 
to some unknown region. In the letter which Don 
Miguel wrote to the stranger, he expressed himself as 
one robbed and left desolate. It was not the loss of 
money or jewels, but the loss of his poor, confiding, 
loving child, that he dwelt upon. The Donna's was 
one of those impulsive, impassioned natures which 



280 THE DEAD LETTER. 

must love, even if it knows the object unworthy. No 
deed which her husband could commit c-ouM make him 
otherwise to her than the man with whose fate her own 
was linked for "better or worse." Mr. Burton folded 
up the letter with a sigh ; no power of his could amend 
the fate of this young creature, which promised to be 
BO sad. 

While he remained in the ruinous old place he used 
extraordinary precautions to insure his own safety ; for 
he believed that Dr. Seltzer, or George Thorley, would 
seek revenge upon him, not only for the sake of the re- 
venge, but to silence the accusation which he might 
carry back to the States. It was well that he was thus 
careful, as, among other proofs that he was thus pur- 
sued, was the following. One afternoon, as he sat in 
the great, breezy corridor of the hotel, an old woman 
came in with a basket and offered to sell him some par- 
ticularly fine oranges. He bought a couple of the 
largest, and was about to eat one, when he observed 
that she did not offer the fruit to any other customer ; 
upon this, he regarded her more closely, ami was satis- 
fied that all was not right. When she iia<l lingered a 
titne to notice if he ate the fruit, he strolled out to the 
stn-ct, and in her presence called up a stray pig, to 
which he fed pieces of the orange. When she saw this, 
the old hag, who was an Indian, quickly disappeared, 
and shortly after the pig died. 

It was, therefore, with feelings of satisfaction that 
the detective finally bade farewell to Acapulco on a 
return steamer. He had waited some time at the isth- 
mus, where the days had huni: heavily, Imt he had com- 
forted himself with his motto about patience : and now, 
d meat the close of his narrative, " If heav- 
en would give us a propitious passage home we should 
be in time all would be right." 

Day wfM breaking when Mr. Burton finished his 



FEVERISH ANXIETY. 281 

narrative ; the rain had ceased, but a thick fog hung over 
the sea and land, making every thing gloomy and dis- 
agreeable. 

" I must go now, and awaken my little girl," he said, 
rising. 

"But you have not read me the written confession of 
that Thorley." 

" Richard, you must forgive me if I do not see fit to 
allow you to read it at present. I have a purpose in it, 
or I should not keep back from you any of my own in- 
formation. That confession did not surprise me ; I 
knew the murderer long ago, but I could not prove it. 
You shall soon be at rest about this affair. I only pray, 
now, for a speedy voyage, and that Leesy Sullivan may 
be alive when we reach New York. Richard !" he add- 
ed, with a passionate gesture, " you do^ not dream 
what a constant fever I am in I am so afraid we shall 
be too late. I can not bear the horror which that would 
be to me." 

And indeed it did seem, at that time, as if my own 
engrossing interest was scarcely equal to that of my 
companion, who yet had nothing at all at stake, while 
I had so much. Not only then, but at various other 
times during the remainder of our voyage, he expressed 
so much anxiety lest Miss Sullivan should be dead be- 
fore we arrived home, that I, who was always torturing 
myself with conjectures, again revived my suspicions 
that she was connected with the murder. 

In the mean time, the sun arose upon the bustle of 
disembarking from the steamer to the cars. Fortu- 
nately, the fog lifted by eight o'clock, and we could en- 
joy the magnificent scenery through which the cars 
whirled us scenery so at variance, in its wildness and 
the exuberance of its foliage, and the secluded aspect 
of its beauty, with this noisy wonder of civilization 
which scattered its fiery deluge of sparks along the 



282 THE DEAD LETTER. 

path of gorgeous tropical flowers waving at us, some- 
times, in long streamors of bloom from the topnut 
branches of gigantic t: 

Nothing occurred to mar the tranquillity of the pas- 
sage home. On the expected day, we landed at the 
dock in New York, and I stepped upon the earth \\ith 
:i curious, excited feeling, now that we drew so near to 
the close of our efforts, which made me almost light- 
headed. We took a carriage and drove to Mr. Burton's ; 
he was expected by the housekeeper, so that we found 
the house prepared for our reception. A fine dinner 
\v:i served at the usual hour but I could not eat. Ap- 
petite and sleep fled before my absorbing anticipations. 
M \ host, who noticed my intense, repressed excitement, 
promised me, before I retired for the ni'_rht, that to-mor- 
row, God willing, the secret places of the wicked should 
belaid bare that myself and all those interested should 
witness the triumph of the innocent and the confusion 
of the guilty. 



"GOD is GOOD." 283 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE RIPE HOUK. 

I AROSE from my sleepless bed to face this, the most 
memorable day of my life. Whether I ate or drank, I 
know not ; but I noticed that Mr. Burton's countenance 
wore a peculiar, illuminated look, as if his soul was in- 
wardly rejoicing over a victory gained. However, 
there was still preoccupation in it, and some perplexity. 
Immediately after breakfast, he proposed to go out, 
saying, 

" Richard, remain here a couple of hours with Le- 
nore, until I find out whether Miss Sullivan is dead or 
alive. I should not have gone to bed last night with- 
out knowing, had I not been troubled with a severe 
headache. This is now the first step in the day's duties. 
As soon as possible I will report progress j" and he 
went out. 

The time of his absence seemed very long. Lenore, 
sweet child, with much of her father's perception, saw 
that I was restless and impatient, and made many 
pretty efforts to entertain me. She sung me some of 
the finest music, while I roamed about the parlors like 
an ill-bred tiger. At the end of two hours my friend 
returned, looking less perplexed than when he went 
out. 

" God is good !" he said, shaking my hand, as if thus 
congratulating me. " Leesy Sullivan is alive, but very 
feeble. She is scarcely able to undertake a journey ; 
but, since I have explained the object, she has consent- 
ed to go. She says she is so near death's door, that it 
matters not how soon she passes through ; and she is 
willing, for the sake of others, to endure a trial from 



284 THE DEAD LETTER. 

which she might naturally shrink. So far, then, all is 
well." 

Was this trial, of which he spoke, that pang which 
she must feel in confessing herself implicated in this 
matter ? Did he think, and had he persuaded her, since 
she was too far gone for the grasp of the law to take 
hold of her, she might now confess a dangerous and 
dark secret ? 

I could not answer the questions my mind" persisted 
in asking. " It will be but a few hours,'' I whispered 
to myself. 

" We are to go up to Blankville by the evening train," 
he continued. " Leesy will accompany us. Until that 
time, there is nothing to do." 

I would rather have worked at breaking stones or 
lifting barrels than to have kept idle; but, as the de- 
u-rtive wished me to remain in the house as a matter of 
caution against meeting any prying acquaintance upon 
the streets, I was forced to that dreariest of all things 
to wait. The hours did finally pass, and Mr. Burton 
set out first with a carriage, to convey Miss Sullivan to 
the depot, where I was to meet him in time for the five 
o'clock train. When I saw her then-, I wondered how 
she had strength to endure the ride, she looked so 
wasted such a mere flickering spark of life, which a 
breath might extinguish. Mr. Burton had almost to 
carry her into the car, where he placed her on a seat, 
with his overcoat for a pillow. We took our seats op- 
posite to her, and as those large, unfathomable eyes met 
mine, still blazing with their old luster, beneath the 
pallid brow, I can not describe the sensations wlm-h 
rushed over me. All those strange scenes through 
which I bad passed at Moreland villa floated up and 
shut me in a strange spell, until I forgot what place 
we were in, or that any other persona surrounded 



THE WEDDING-BONNET. 285 

When the cars moved rapidly out of the city, increas- 
ing their speed as they got beyond the precincts, Leesy 
asked to have the window open. 

The air was cold and fresh ; her feverish lips swal- 
lowed it as a reviving draught. I gazed alternately at 
her and the landscape, already flushed with the red of 
early sunset. It was a December day, chill but bright ; 
the ground was frozen, and the river sparkled with the 
keen blueness of splintered steel. The red banner of 
twilight hung over the Palisades. I lived really three 
years in that short ride the three years just past and 
when we reached our destination, I walked like one in 
a dream. It was quite evening when we got out at 
Blankville, though the moon was shining. A fussy lit- 
tle woman passed out before us, lugging a large band- 
box ; she handed it to the town express, telling the 
driver to be very careful of it, and take it round at 
once to Esquire Argyll's. 

" I suppose it contains the wedding-bonnet," he said, 
with a laugh. 

" That it does, and the dress, too, all of my own se- 
lection," said the little woman, with an air of impor- 
tance. " Just you carry it in your hand, sir, and don't 
you allow nothing to come near it." 

When I heard these words, a hot flush came to my 
face. That Mary Argyll was already married, or ex- 
pected to be very soon, I knew ; but I could not hear 
this reference to the wedding, nor see this article of 
preparation, without keen pain. Yet what business 
was it of mine ? 

Mr. Burton had also heard the brief colloquy, and I 
noticed his lips pressed together with a fierce expres- 
sion as we passed under the lamp which lighted the 
crossing. He took us into the hotel by the depot. Oh, 
how suffocating, how close, became memory ! Into 
this building poor Henry had been carried on that 



286 THE DEAD LETTER. 

wretched morning. It seemed to be but yesterday. I 
think Leesy was recalling it all, for when a cup of tea 
was brought in for her, at Mr. Burton's bidding, sho 
turned from it with loathing. 

" Leesy," he said, looking at her firmly, and speak- 
ing in a tone of high command, " I don't want you to 
fail me now. The trial will soon be over. Brace your- 
self for it with all the strength you have. Now, I am 
going out a few moments perhaps for hnrlf an hour. 
AYlien I return, you will both IK- ready t<> L:<> \\ith me 
to Mr. Argyll's house." 

I was nearly as much shaken by this prospect as the 
frail woman who sat tmnlilini; in a corner of tin- 
To go into that house from which I hail ill-parted with 
such ignominy to sec Eleanor face to fare to meet 
them all who ha<l onee l>een my friends to irrcet them 
as strangers, for sueh they wen they must be. to me! 
to appear in their mi<l>t under sii'-h strange cireum- 
stances to hear, I knew not what to learn that mys- 
tery my heart grew as if walled in with ice ; it could 
not half beat, and felt cold in my l>n-ast. 

Both Leesy and myself started when Mr. Hurton 
again appeared in the room. 

"All is riu'lit thus far," he said, in a clear, < 
voice, which, nevertheless, had the high ring of excite- 
ment. "Come, now, let us not waste the golden mo- 
ments, for now the hour is ripe." 

We had each of us to give an arm to Miss Sullivan, 
who could scarcely put one foot before the other. We 
walked slowly along over th-it path \\hidi 1 never had 
trodden sine* the night of the murder without a 
shudder. A low moan came fro n lips as we 

pa08ed the SpOt Wilde the li Mon-land 

had lieell di-co \eivd. JVcsclilh \\ecanie to tin 

of the Argyll place, and here Mr. Hnrt.n a-_ r ain left us. 
"Follow me," he said, " in five minutes. Come to ihi- 



THE MEETING. 287 

library-door, and knock ; and, Richard, I particularly 
desire you to take a seat by the bay-window." 

He went up the walk and entered the house, with- 
out seeming to ring the hall door-bell, leaving the door 
open as he passed in. I looked at my watch by the 
moonlight, forcing myself to count the minutes, by 
way of steadying my head, which was all in a whirl. 
When the time expired, I helped Leesy forward into 
the dim hall, on to the libraryndoor, where I knocked, 
according to directions, and was admitted by Mr. Ar- 
gyll himself. 

There was a bright light shining from the chandelier, 
fully illuminating the room. In the midst of a flood 
of recollections, I stepped within ; but my brain, which 
had been hot and dizzy before, grew suddenly calm and 
cool. When Mr. Argyll saw that it was me, he slightly 
recoiled, and gave me no greeting whatever. A glance 
assured me that every member of the family was prev- 
ent. Eleanor sat in an arm-chair near the center-table ; 
Mary and James occupied the same sofa. Eleanor 
looked at me with a kind of white amazement ; James 
nodded as my eye met his, his face expressing surprise 
and displeasure. Mary rose, hesitated, and finally came 
forward, saying, 

" How do you do, Richard ?" 

I bowed to her, but did not take her outstretched 
hand, and she rettmied to her place near James. In 
the mean time, Mr. Burton himself placed Leesy Sul- 
livan in an easy-chair. I walked forward and took a 
seat near the window. I had time to observe the ap- 
pearance of my whilom friends, and was calm enough 
to do it. Mr. Argyll had grown old much faster than 
the time warranted ; his form was somewhat bent, and 
his whole appearance feeble ; I grieved, as I noticed 
this, as though he was my own father, for I once had 
loved him -as much. Mary looked the same as when I 
13 



288 THE DEAD LETTER. 

had seen her, three months since, in tint surreptitious 
visit to the oak, blooming and beautiful, the ima^e of 
\vli.-it Eleanor once was. Klcanor, doubtless, was 
whiter than her wont, for my appearance had startled 
her; but there was the same rapt, far-away, spiritual 
look upon her features which they had worn since that 
day when she had wedded herself t> the spirit of her lover. 

Mr. IJurton inrneil the key in tin- luck ..(' the door 
which opened into the hall ; then crossed over and 
closed the parlor-door, and sat down by it, say in t: as 
he did so, 

"Mr. Argyll, I told y..n a few moments a 1:0. thai I 
had news of importance to communicate, and I take 
the liberty of closing these doors, for it would lie \er\ 
unpleasant for us to he intruded upon, or for any of 
the servants to hear any tiling of what I have to say. 
You will perhaps <_ruess the nature 1 of mv communica- 

n, from my having brought with me these two per- 
sons. I would not agitate any of you !>v the introduc- 
tion of the painful subject, if I did not believe that 
you would rather know the truth, even if it is sad io 
re\ i\e the past. Hut I must be^ of you to lie calm, 
r.ud to litcii quietly to what I have to wy." 

"I will be \er\ calm; do not be afraid," murmured 
Eleanor, growing yet feebler, for it was to her he now 
particularly addressed the injunction. 

I was so occupied with her that I did not notice the 
elVect upon the Other*. 

" Mr. Argyll," continued the detective, " 1 have DtVtf 
yet abandoned a case of this kind until I have unrav- 
eled its mystery to the last thread. Nearly 1\\o years 
have passed since you supposed that I ceased 1" e\ert 
myself to discover the murderer of Henry .Moreland. 
But I have never, for a day, alh>\\ , -d the ease to lie 
idle in my mind. Whenever I have had leisure. I 
have partially followed every clue which wan put in 



" YOU WERE NOT FAB WRONG." 289 



my hands at the time when we first had the matter 
under discussion. It was not alone the sad circum- 
stances of the tragedy which gave it unusual interest 
( to me. I became warmly attached to your family, and 
'as, from the first yes, from the very first hour when I 
heard of the murder I believed I had discovered 
the perpetrator, I could not allow the matter to sink 
into silence. You remember, of course, our last inter- 
view. Some ideas were there presented which I then 
opposed. You know how the discussion of all the 
facts then known ended. Your suspicions fell Tipon 
one who had been an honored and favored member of 
your family you feared, although you were not cer- 
tain, that Richard Redfield committed the deed. You 
gave me all the reasons you had for your opinions 
good reasons, too, some of them were ; but I then 
combated the idea. However, I was more or less 
affected by what you said, and I told you, before part- 
ing, that, if you had such feelings toward the young 
man, you ought not to allow him to be, any longer, a 
member of your family. I believe he came to under- 
stand the light in which you regarded him, and shortly 
after left the place, and since has been most of the 
time, in Washington, employed there as a clerk in the 
dead-letter office. I believe now, Mr. Argyll, that you 
were not far wrong in your conjectures. I have dis- 
covered the murderer of Henry Moreland, and can 
give you positive proof of it /" 

This assertion, deliberately tittered, caused the sen- 
sation which might be expected. Eleanor, with all her 
long habit of self-control, gave a slight shriek, and 
began to tremble like a leaf. Exclamations came from 
the lips of all I believe James uttered an oath, but I 
am not certain ; for I, perhaps more than any other in 
the room, was at that moment confounded. As the 
idea rushed over me that Mr. Burton had been acting 



290 THE DEAD LETTER. 

a part toward me, and had taken these precautions to 

get me utterly in his power, where I could not defend 
m\ -elf, 1 started ti) my feet. 

"Sit still, .Mr. He. liield." said the deteethe to me, 
sternly. "There is no avenue of escape for the guilty," 
and rising, he took the key of the door and put it in 
his pocket, giving me a look difficult to understand. 

I did sit d<>\vn again, not so much because he told 
inc. as that I was powerless from ania/.enient ; as 1 did 
so, I met the eyes of James, which laughed silently 
with a triumph so hateful that, at the moment, they 
seemed to me the eyes of a devil. All the feelings 
which, at various times, had heen called up by this 
terrible affair, were nothing to those which overwhelmed 
me during the tew moments which followed. .My 
thought tracked many avenues with lightning rapidity; 
but I could find no light at the end of any of them. 
I began to believe that (u-orge Thorlcy. in his confes- 
sion, had criminated >/u who knew him not who 
had spoken with him and that thin was the rea- 
son why Mr. Fiurtou had withheld that document from 
me falsely professing friendship, while leading me 
into the pit! If so, what secret enemy had 1 \\lio 
could instruct him to lay the murder at my door? If 
he had accused me, I was well aware that maiiv little 
circumstances might be turned so as to strengthen the 
.lion. 

I sat there dumb. But there is always strength in 
innocence even u hen betrayed by its friends! > I 
remained <|iiiet and listened. 

" When a crime like this is n.mmitted," proceeded 
the detective, <|iiite calm in the mid-t of our excite- 
ment, " we usually look for the motive. Next to ava- 
rice come the passions of revenge and jealousy in fre- 
quency. We know that money had nothing to do with 
Henry Morcland's death revenge and jeah.u-y had. 



" A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY." 291 

There lived in Blankville three or four years ago, a 
yonng fellow, a druggist, by the name of George 
Thorley ; you remember him, Mr. Argyll ?" 

Mr. Argyll nodded his head. 

" He was an adventurer, self-instructed in medicine, 
without principle. Shortly after setting up in your 
village, he fell in love with this woman here Miss 
Sullivan. She rejected him ; both because she had a 
dim perception of his true character, and because she 
was interested in another. She allows me to say, here, 
what she once before confessed to us, that she loved 
Henry Moreland loved him purely and unselfishly, 
Avith no wish but for his happiness, and no hope of 
ever being any thing more to him than his mother's 
seAving-girl, to whom he extended some acts of kind- 
ness. But George Thorley, with the sharpness of jeal- 
ousy, discovered her passion, which she supposed was 
hidden from mortal eyes, and conceived the brutal hate 
of a low nature against the young gentleman, who was 
ignorant alike of him and his sentiments. So far, no 
harm was done, and evil might never have come of it, 
for Henry Moreland moved in a sphere different from 
his, and they might never have come in contact. But 
another bosom was also possessed of the fiend of jeal- 
ousy. An inmate of your family had learned to love 
your daughter Eleanor not only to love her, but to 
look forward to the fortune and position which would 
be conferred by a marriage with her as something ex- 
tremely desirable. He would not reconcile himself to 
the engagement which was formed between Miss Ar- 
gyll and Mr. Moreland. He cherished bad thoughts, 
which grew more bitter as their happiness became more 
apparent. Once, he was standing at the gate of this 
lawn, when the young couple passed him, going out for 
a walk together. He looked after them with a dark 
look, speaking aloud, unconsciously, the thought of his 



292 THE DEAD LETTER. 

heart ; he said, I hate him ! I wish he were dead? 
Instantly, to his surprise and dismay, a voice replied, 
4 T*m with you there you don't wish it so much as I 
doT The speaker was Thorley, who, passing, had 
been arrested by the young couple going out of the 
gate, and who had remained, also, gazing after thorn. 
It was an unfortunate coincidence. The first speaker 
looked at the second with anger and chagrin ; but he 
had betrayed himself, and the other kne\V it. lie 
laughed impudently, as he sauntered on ; but, jnc- ( miy, 
he returned and whispered, * I wouldn't object to put- 
ting him out of the way, if I was well paid for it.' 
* What do you mean V inquired the other, angrily, and 
the response was, ' Just what I say. I hate him aa 
bad as you do ; you've got money, or can yet tV, and I 
can't. Pay me well for the job, and I'll put him out 
of your way so securely that he won't ink-Hi-iv with 
your plans any more.' The young gentleman aili-rk-d 
to be, and perhaps was, indignant. The fellow \\ out 
off, smirking ; but his words left, as he thought they 
would, their poison behind. In less than a mouth from 
that time, the person had sought Thorley out, in his 
lurking-place in the city for he had, you recolhrt, 
been driven from Blankvillc by the voice of public 
opinion and had conferred with him upon the possi- 
bility of young Moreland being put out of the way, 
without risk of discovery of those who had a hand in it. 
Thorley agreed to manage every thing without ri.-k t.. 
any one. He wanted three thousand dollars, but his 
accomplice, who was aware that you were about to 
draw two thousand from a bank in New York, prom- 
ised him that sum, with which he agreed to be satis- 
fied. It was expected and planned that the murder 
should be committed in the city ; but, as the time drew 
nigh for accomplishing it, opportunity did nut pr 
Finally, as the steamer upon which Thorley wished to 



HOW IT CAME THERE. 293 

flee to California was about to sail, and no better thing 
offered, he concluded to follow Mr. Moreland out in 
the evening train, and stab him, under cover of the 
rain and darkness, someAvhere between the depot and 
the house. This he did ; then, afraid to take the cars, 
for fear of being suspected, he went down along the 
docks, took possession of a small boat which lay moored 
by a chain, broke the chain, and rowed down the 
river, completely protected by the storm from human 
observation. The next morning found him in New- 
York, dress, complexion and hair changed, with .noth- 
ing about him to excite the least suspicion that he was 
connected with the tragedy that was just becoming 
known. However, he wrote a letter, directed to John 
Owen, Peekskill, in which he stated in obscure terms, 
that the instrument with which the murder was com- 
mitted would be found secreted in a certain oak tree on 
these premises, and that it had better be taken care of. 
I have the letter and the broken instrument. The way 
it came to be concealed in the tree was this : After 
the murder, being so well sheltered by the storm, he 
was bold enough to approach the house, in hopes of 
communicating with his accomplice, and receiving the 
money directly from his hands, which would prevent 
the latter from the necessity of making a trip to Brook- 
lyn to pay it. He saw nothing of him, however ; per- 
ceiving that he could look into the parlor through the 
open upper half of the shutter by climbing the large 
oak at the corner, he did so ; and was looking at you 
all for some minutes on that evening. Perceiving by 
the light which shone from the window that the instru- 
ment was broken at the point, he at once comprehended 
how important it was to get rid of it, and chancing to 
discover a hollow spot in the limb he stood on, he 
worked it well into the rotten heart of the wood. He 
it was whom Miss Sullivan detected descending from 



294 THE DEAD LETT1.!:. 

the tree, on that awful night when she, alas! led by a 
hopeless, though a pure love. paing the hou-e on her 
way to her aunt's, could not deny herself a stolen look 
at the happiness of the two beings so soon, she thought, 
to be made one. She never expected to Me them again 
until after their marriage, and a wild, foolish impulse, 
if I must call it so, urged her into the garden, to look 
through the open bay-window a folly which came 
near having leTHHM COO86C|nences for her. "\Vell. (Jeorge 
Thorley escaped, and fulfilled the programme so far as 
to sail for San Francisco; but the boat stopping at 
A -apulco, he received an oiler there, from a Spanish 
gentleman, of the posit 'n 
eMales. It was just the cou 
that of Thorley to prosper in 
osition, wormed himself into 
iard, married his daughter, an 
heart's content, when I came 
disturbed hi- serenity. Yes ! .Mr. Argyll, I Marled for 
California after the villain, for I had traces of him 
which led me to take the journey, and it wa> by ;i 

^providential accident that 1 a-cerlained he\\a> near 
Acapulco, where I, also, landed, sought him out. and 
wrung a confession from him, which I have here in 
writing. He has told the story plainly, and I have 
other evidence to confirm it which a court of law 
could possibly require. I could hang his accomplice, 
without doubt." 

At the fii-t mention of the name of George Thorley 
I chanced to be looking at James, over who-e counte- 
nance passed an indescribable change ; he moved un- 
easily, looked at the closed doors, and again riveted 
his gaze on Mr. Burton, who did not look at him at all 
during the narrative, but kept steadily on. to the end, 

in a linn, clear tone, low, so as not to be ..\, i l, ( -;.rd 
outside, but assured and distinct. Having once 




" I DID IT, ELEANOR." 295 

observed James, I could no longer see any one else. I 
seemed to see the story reflected in his countenance, 
instead of hearing it. Flushes of heat passed over it, 
succeeded by an ashy paleness, which deepened into 
a sickly blue hue, curious to behold ; dark passions 
swept like shadows over it ; and gradually, as the 
speaker neared the climax of his story, I felt like one 
who gazes into an open window of the bottomless pit. 

" Have I told you who it was that hired George 
Thorley to murder Henry Moreland ?" asked Mr. Bur- 
ton, in the pause which followed. 

It had been taken for granted who the person was, 
and as he asked the question the eyes of all turned to 
me of all except James, who suddenly sprung with a 
bound against the door opening into the parlor, which 
was not locked. But another was too quick for him ; 
the powerful hand of the detective was on his shoulder, 
and as he turned the attempted fugitive full to the 
light, he said, in words which fell like fire, 

"It was your nephew James Argyll." 

For a moment you might have heard a leaf drop 
on the carpet ; no one spoke or stirred. Then Eleanor 
arose from her chair, and, lifting up her hand, looked 
with awful eyes at the cowering murderer. Her look 
blasted him. He had been writhing under J\Jr. Bur- 
ton's grasp ; but now, as if in answer to her gaze, he 
said, 

" Yes I did it, Eleanor," and dropped to the floor 
in a swoon. 
13* 



296 THE DEAD LETTEB. 



CHAPTER IX. 

JOINING THE MISSING LINKS. 

THE scene which transpired in the next few minutes 
was harrowing. The revulsion of feeling, the shock, 
the surprise and the horror were almost too much for 
human nature to bear. Groan after groan burst from 
Mr. Argyll, as if his In-east were being rent in twain. 
Mary tottered to her sister and threw herself at her 
feet, with her head buried in her lap ; if she had not 
been so healthily organi/.ed, and of such an even tem- 
perament, I know not how she would have sunived 
this frightful cheek to her hopes and affections. It 
rd as if Eleanor, who had lived only to sutler for 
so many weary months, had now more self-po--e ion 
than any of the others; her thin, white hand fell softly 
on her Bister's curls with a pitying touch ; and after a 
time, she whispered to her some words. My o\\n stir- 
pi-i-e \\-:i- nearly as much as anyone's; for, although 
many times I had jMt thai James was the guilty one, 
I had always tried to drive away the impres>iou, and 
had finally almost succeeded. 

In the mean time no one went to the unhappy man, 
who found a temporary relief from shame and despair 
in insensibility. All recoiled from him, as he lay upon 
the floor. Finally, Mr. Burton forced himself to raise 
him ; consciousness was returning, and he placed him 
on the sofa, and gave him a handkerchief wet with 

lie. 

Presently Mary arose from her kneeling position, 
and looked around the room until her glance tell on me, 
when the came toward me, and grasped both my hands, 
saying, 



THE MURDERER'S FATE. 29*7 

" Richard, I never accused you I always felt that 
you were innocent, and always said so. You must for- 
give the others for my sake. My father and sister will 
bear me witness that I always defended you from the 
accusations of one who, it is now proved, soxight with 
double, with inconceivable baseness, to divert suspicion 
from himself to another" her voice trembled with 
scorn. " I never wanted ito marry him," she added, 
bursting into tears, " but they overpersuaded me." 

" Quiet yourself, sistei'," said Eleanor, gently, arising 
and approaching us. " We have all wronged you, 
Richard I fear beyond forgiveness. Alas ! we can 
now see what a noble enemy you have been !" 

In that moment I felt repaid for all I had suffered, 
and I said with joy, 

" Never an enemy, Miss Argyll ; and I forgive you, 
wholly." 

Then there was another stir ; James had risen to slip 
away from the company, now so distasteful to him; 
but Mr. Burton again stood between him and egress ; 
as he did so, he said, 

" Mr. Argyll, it is for you to decide the fate of this 
miserable man. I have kept all my proceedings a 
secret from the public ; I even allowed George Thorley 
to remain in Mexico, for I thought your family had al- 
ready suffered enough, without loading it down with 
the infamy of your nephew. If you say that he shall 
go unpunished by the law, I shall abide by your wish ; 
this matter shall be kept by the few who now know it. 
For your sakes, not for his, I would spare him the 
death which he deserves ; but he must leave the country 
at once and for ever." 

" Let him go," said the uncle, his back turned upou 
the murderer, toward whom he would not look. " Go, 
instantly and for ever. And remember, James Argyll, 
if I ever see your face again, if I ever hear of your 



298 THE DEAD LETTER. 

being anywhere in the United States I shall at once 
you to be arre>ted." 

" Ami I. the sain.-." a. M<-.1 Mr. Burton. " God knows, 
if it were not for these younjj ladies, whose feeling- are 
sacred to me, I would not let you off so easily." 

lie opened the door, ami .James Argyll >lnnk 'iit into 
the nijjht, and away, none knew \\hither, bran-led, ex- 
patriated, and alone away, without one look at the 
fair, beautiful irirl who was so soon to have been his 
bride away, from the home he had jieriled his soul to 
secure. 

When he had gone, we all breathed more freely. Mr. 
Burton h:id yet mueh to say, for he wished to el..<e this 
horrible business for ever. He took the surgical in- 
strument which we had found in the tree, and fitted it 
to the piece which had been extracted from the body of 
the murdered man, and showed the family the initials 
of George Thorley upon it. He then produce.! tin- 
written confession of Thorley. which we all read for 
| i'lit as it contained only, in a plain statement, 
the facts already Lriven. I will not repeat them here. He- 
then proceeded \\ith the history of th n i:, 
which. al<". he had \\ilh him, and which proved to be 
in the same handwriting as the confeion. In speaking 
of the i-unous manner in which this document hail been 
lost, to be recovered in the ri^lit time by the ri-ht per- 
son, he seemed to consider it almost awfully provi. Ini- 
tial. 

1-Yom tin- he \sent on \\ith a minute history of all 
the Steps taken by both of us, our journey over the 
OOOan, the wonderful sueeess which \saited upon pa- 
tience, perseverance and energy, securing the final 
triumph of justice; and. to conclude \\ilh, he said. 

I OW6, -till, a _' 1 many explanation- both to you, 

Mr. Argyll, and t Mr. Ke'ltield. I caii not lay ! 
you the thousand subtle threads by which I trace the 








Page 197. 



'1 NEVER ACCUSED YOU." 



A PECULIAR POWER. 299 

course of a pursuit like this, and which makes me suc- 
cessful as a detective ; but I can account for some things 
which at times have puzzled both of you. In the first 
place there is about me a power not possessed by all 
call it instinct, magnetism, clairvoyancy, or remarkable 
nervous and mental perception. Whatever it is, it en- 
ables me, often, to feel the presence of criminals, as well 
as of very good persons, poets, artists, or marked tem- 
peraments of any kind. The day on which this case 
was placed before me, it was brought by two young 
men, your nephew and this person now present. I had 
not been ten minutes with them when I began to pei'- 
ceive that the murderer was in the room with me / and 
before they had left me, I had decided which was the 
guilty man. But it would have been unpardonable 
rashness to denounce him without proof; by such a 
course I would throw him on the defensive, defeat the 
ends of justice, and overwhelm myself with denuncia- 
tion. I waited arid watched I put him under surveil- 
lance. That night upon which he crossed the Brooklyn 
ferry to pay the money to the hired assassin, I was 
upon his track ; I heard the angry dismay with which 
he accused Richard of following him, when the other 
met him upon this side. It was not very long after I 
began to investigate the case before he cautiously ap- 
proached me, as he did you, with hints of the might- 
be-guilty party ; he made me see how much to the 
interest of his friend Richard it would be if rivals were 
out of the way, and how desperately that person loved 
Miss Argyll. (Forgive me, friends, for using plain lan- 
guage the whole truth must be told.) But I need not 
dwell on his method, for you must be familiar with it. 
I confess that he used consummate tact ; if I had not 
read him from the first, I, too, might have been misled. 
He was not over-eager in the search for suspected per- 
sons, as the guilty almost always are. He did not sus- 



800 THE T>KAD LETTER. 

pect Miss Sullivan, as Kichard ili<l. I favored the 
pursuit of Miss Sullivan for 1\v.. reasons ; tin- first was 
to conceal my real suspicions ; tin- next was, after find- 
ing her handkerchief in the garden, after the flight, ami 
all those really strong grounds for inppocing IHT con- 
nected with the murder, I began to think that sh. 
connected with it, through some interest in James Ar- 
gyll. I did not know but that she might have been 
attached to him that the child she cared for might be 
his you see 1 was totally in the dark as to all the de- 
tails. I only took it for granted that James was guilty, 
and had to gather my proofs afterward. It was not 
until atler my interview with I.cesy, at M.reland villa, 
that I became convinced she had nothing to do with the 
murder, and thut all her strange proceedings were the 
result of the grief sin- fi-lt at the tragic .leath of one 
whom she secretly loved. When I had an inteniew 
with you on that same afternoon, I saw that .James had 
poisoned your mind with suspicions of Mr ]{ ed field ; 
for the same re.i-.tii \\hi.-h had kept me silent so long 
that is, that I should eventually undeceive you I did 
not defend him, as 1 otherwise should. Apparently. I 
allowed the ease to drop. It was only that I might 
follow it undisturbed. I had already li\ ( -d upon Cali- 
fornia as the retreat of the accomplice, and was about 

;!( oil' in ^eareh of him when Kichard app< 
upon the scene with the dead-letter j M his hand. 

44 From that Jiour I felt sure of perfect success. My 
only anxiety was that the marriage should not be con- 
summated which would seal my month ; for, if ' 
had been married on my return, I should have consid- 
ered it too late to reveal the truth. This made me 
n,je:i!y not only for her sake, but because then 1 could 
not clear .Mr. lledfield's character to those friends who 
had cruelly wronged him. I kept my suspicions from 
him, although he was the partner of my investigations, 



GENTLE PITT. 301 

for I was afraid that his impetuosity might cause him 
to do something indiscreet, and I did not want the 
guilty one alarmed until the net was spread for his feet. 
To-night, when I came here, I still further carried on 
my plan of allowing you to remain undecided until the 
last moment, for I counted on the sudden, overwhelm- 
ing accusation having the effect to make the murderer 
confess which it did. I wished Miss Sullivan to be 
present, not only to corroborate any points of my testi- 
mony in which she might be concerned, but that repa- 
ration might also be done her, for we have troubled 
and frightened her a great deal, poor thing, when her 
only fault has been too keen a perception of the nobil- 
ity of that departed martyr, whose memory his friends 
cherish so sacredly. She has but a brief space to dwell 
on earth, and I thought it would comfort her to know- 
that no one blames her for the pure devotion which has 
lighted her soul and consumed it like oil which bums 
away in perfume." 

Mr. Burton never meant to be poetical, but his per- 
ceptions were of that refined kind that he could not 
withhold from poor Leesy this little tribute to her noble 
folly. His words touched Eleanor ; she was too high- 
minded to despise the fruitless offering of another and 
a humbler woman at the shrine before which she was 
privileged to minister ; I believe in that hour she felt a 
sister's interest in poor, lowly, but love-exalted Leesy 
Sullivan. She crossed over, took the wasted hand in 
her own, and pressed it tenderly. We all now perceived 
how much this dreadful evening had fatigued the invalid. 

" She must go to bed at once," said Eleanor ; " I will 
call Nora, and have her placed in the room which opens 
out of ours, Mary." 

The young ladies retired to give their gentle atten- 
tion to the sick girl ; and both, before they went out, 
pressed my hand as they said good-night. 



302 THE DEAD LETTER. 

We three men remained lonir, talking over each par- 
ticular of our Strange story, 1'or we could not feel like 
sleeping. And before we parted lor the night. Mr. Ar- 
gyll had humbled himself to confess that he was It -1 to 
condemn me without snflicieiit d 

; ' I loved you a- a -on. 1 lichard." lie said, in :x broken 
voice, "better than I e\erh>ve<l .James, for I wa- aware 
that he had many faults of heart and head. And when 
I was induced to believe \ou the author of the erime 
which had broken all our hearts, I was still further 
downcast. .My health has failed, as you M-e ; and I 
was urgent upon .Mary to marry her cousin, for I 
felt as if she would soon be left friendless, and I 
wanted the girls to Imve a protector. I might better 
have left them to the care of a viper," he added, with 
a shudder. "Poor Mary, dear girl ! she was ri-_ r ht all 
the time. She never did love that man though, of 
course, she had no idea of the truth. Thank (lod, it H 
no worse !" 

I knew he was thinking of the marriage, and I, too, 
murmured," Thank Clod/' 

Mr. Argyll," -aid Mr. l!nr!on. laying his hand on 
that of the other, " this terrible atVair is now brought to 
a close, as far as it can be. Let me advice you to brood 
over it as little as possible. Your health i* already af- 
fected. I acknowledge it is enough to -liak<- one's rea- 
son ; but, for that, I would bid voti to drop it all from 
your mind to banish the thought of it never to n-f.-r 
to it again. You can yet be tolerably happy. A fair 
future lies before all of you. < \r. |.t dear Mi-< Kleanor. 
Adopt liiehard as your sou, make him your partner, 
as you first intended. I will '.rive you mv warrant for 
what it is worth, that he will relieve you both of busi- 
ness and household cares and that you will feel, dur- 
ing your declining years, aa if you, indeed, had a son 
to comfort you." 



RECONCILIATION. 303 

"But I do not believe that Richard would take such 
a place, after what has passed," said Mr. Argyll, doubt- 
fully. 

I hesitated ; for a moment pride rebelled ; but since 
all is forgiven, ought it not to be forgotten ? When I 
spoke it was Avith heartiness. 

" If you need a partner in your office, and wish me 
to take the place, I will do so." 

" Then the compact is signed," said Mr. Burton, al- 
most gayly. " And now I Avill try to find a bed at the 
hotel." 

" Of course you will not," said our host ; " this house 
is yours as much as mine, Mr. Burton, always. How 
much I thank you for all the time, money and thought 
you have lavished in our behalf, I will not try to say 
to-night. Our gratitude is unspoken because it is 
boundless." 

" Don't thank me for following out the instincts of 
my nature," said the detective, affecting carelessness ; 
and with that we shook Mr. Argyll's hand, and retired 
to the rooms assigned us. 

In the morning Miss Sullivan was found to be much 
worse ; the journey and the excitement had made her 
very ill, so that it was impossible for her to return to 
the city with Mr. Burton. A physician was sent for 
who said that she could not live over two or three days. 
She heard the sentence with apparent joy ; only she 
begged Mr. Burton to send little Nora up to her, on the 
evening train, that she might see the child before she 
died. This he promised to do, and to have always an 
interest in her welfare. She was much affected when 
he bade her farewell, for he had gained her love and 
confidence by his manner of treating her. 

The child came, and was tenderly received by the 
sisters. They were unwearied in their attentions to the 
sufferer, whose last hours were soothed by their earnest 



804 THE DEAD LETTER. 

words of hope and comfort. Leesy died with a smile 
on her face, going out of this w.>rM, which had been -o 
cold to one of her impassioned nature, with joy. When 
I looked at the wasted corpse, I could hardly n-ali/.e 
that the fire was out for ever which had so long burned 
in those wonderful eyes it was not quenched, it had 
only been removed to a purer atmosphere. She \\ as 
buried, very quietly, but reverently, on a beautiful win- 
ter day. Her little charge was much petted by the 
young ladies ; and as a lady who chanced to see her, 
learning that she was an orphan, took a fancy to adopt 
her, they, with Mr. Burton's consent, resigned her to a 
new mother. I have seen little Nora lately ; she is a 
pretty child, and well cared for. 



THE SHADOW PASSING. 305 



CHAPTER X. 

THE NEW LIFE. 

THE winter passed away quietly. The sudden absence 
of James Argyll caused much harmless gossip in the 
village. It was reported, and generally believed, that 
he had gone abroad, on a tour to Egypt, because Miss 
Argyll had jilted him. Fortunately, the arrangements 
for the wedding were known to but few, the feelings of 
the family having inclined toward a very quiet affair. 
The little woman who had prepared the wedding-dress 
was a New York milliner, who probably never learned 
that the wedding was not consummated. 

I was very busy in the office. Mr. Argyll's health 
was poor, and business had accumulated which took the 
most of my time. He wished me to board in his house, 
but I declined doing so ; though, as in the old, happy 
times, I spent nearly all my evenings there. 

Beyond the first shock, Mary did not seem to suffer 
from the abrupt termination of an engagement into 
which she had entered reluctantly. I even believed 
that she felt very much relieved at not being compelled 
to marry a cousin for the sake of securing a protector. 
Her gay laugh soon resumed its sweetness ; her bright 
loveliness bloomed in the midst of winter, making roses 
and sunshine in the old mansion. Eleanor seemed to 
love to see her sister happy, gently encouraging her ef- 
forts to drive away the shadow which lingered about 
the house. Her own sad life must not be permitted to 
blight the joy of any other. I have said that my feel- 
ings toward her had changed from passionate love, 
through intense sympathy, into affectionate reverence. 
I think, now, that I felt toward her a good deal as 



306 THE DEAD LETTEK. 

Mary did that nothing we conld do for her, to show 
our silent love and sympathy, could be too much a 
tender regard for her wishes and habits a deep respect 
for the manner in which she bore her loss. We did not 
expect that she would ever again be gay or hopeful ; 
so we did not annoy her with trying to make her so. 

In the mean time a great change wa-* taking plan- in 
my own nature, of which I was but faintly aware. I 
only knew that I enjoyed my hard work that I felt 
resolute and strong, and that my evening* were pleas- 
ant and homelike. Further, I did not question. I 
wrote to my mother a guarded account of what had oc- 
curred ; but I was obliged to pay her a living \IMI to 
explain all the facts, for I dared not trust them mi paper. 
Thus the winter glided away into sunshine and spring 
again. 

It was the first day which had really seemed like 
spring. It was warm and showery; there was a smell 
of violets ami new gra-s on the air. 1 had my otlice- 
window open, but as the afternoon wore auay, and the 
sun -hone out after an April sprinkle, I could not abide 
the dullness of that court of law. I felt those "blind 
motions of the spring," whieh Tennvson attriliir 
trees and plants. And verily, I was in svmpathy \\ith 
nature. 1 felt verdant and it' the reader thinks that 
to my discredit, he is at liberty to cherish his opinion. 
I fell young and happy years seemed to have dropped 
auav from me, like a mantle of ice, leaving the tl- 
and freshness to appear. Not knowing whit In -r my 
fancy would lead me, I walked toward the mansion, 
and again, as upon that autumn afternoon upon which 
I first saw Eleanor after her calamity, I turned my step* 
to the arbor which crowned the slope at the back of the 
lawn. Thinking of Kieatior, as I saw her then, I en- 
the place with a light step, and found Mary -i: 
ting, looking off on the river with a dreamy face. MM- 



MATED. 307 

blushed when she perceived who had intruded upon her 
reverie ; I saw the warm color sweep, wave after wave, 
over the lovely cheek and brow, and I knew instantly 
the secret it betrayed. I remembered the arms which 
bad once fallen about my neck, the tears which had 
rained upon my cheek from the eyes of a young girl, 
the eager voice which had said, " jTlove you Richard ! 
/ Avill believe nothing against you !" 

Oh, how sweetly the revelation came to me then ! 
My own heart was fully prepared to receive it. 
Through months I had been transferring the wealth of 
young, hopeful love, which craves the bliss of being 
shared, from the sister who Avas raised so far above 
mortal passion, to this dear semblance of her former 
self. My face must have expressed my happiness, for 
when I stood over Mary, as she sat, and turned her 
sweet face up toward my own, she gave but one glance 
before her eyes fell to hide their thought. 

I kissed her, and she kissed me back again, shyly, 
timidly. She loved me ; I was no longer mateless, but 
drank the cup of joy which is filled for youth. What 
happy children we were, when, late enough after sun- 
set, we strolled back to the house and went to receive 
the paternal blessing ! 

I believe that hour when our betrothal was known 
was the best which had blessed the household since the 
shadow descended upon it. 

In June we were married ; there was no excuse for 
delay, and all the friends expressed themselves urgent 
to have the matter settled. We went, on our wedding- 
tour, to see my mother, with whom we had a long, de- 
lightful visit. Three years have passed since then, and 
in that time there have been changes some of them very 
sad. Mr. Argyll died about two years since, his health 
never rallying from the shock which it received during 
those trying times. Since then, we have resided in the 



808 THE DEAD LETTER. 

old mansion, and Eleanor lives with us. She is a nol>le 
woman one of Christ's anointed, who puts a^ide her 
own sorrow, to minister to the grid's and ftoflbringfl of 
others. Both Mary and myself defer a great deal to 
her judgment, which is calm and clear, never clouded 
by passion, as ours will sometimes be. We feel as if 
nothing evil could live where Eleanor is; she is the 
light and blessing of our household. 

The saddest affliction which has fallen upon u< >inee 
the loss of our father, is the deatli of Mr. Hurt on. 
Alas! he has fallen a victim, at last, to the relentless 
pursuit of enemies which his course in life raised up 
about him. The wicked feared him, and compassed 
his destruction. Whether he was murdered by some 
one whom he had detected in <_:uilt, or l>v some one 
who feared the nmMiirations he was making, is not 
known; he died of poison administered to him in his 
fond. It wrin<_^ my heart to think that irreat and good 
soul is no more of this world, lie was so active, so 
powerful, of such a Denial temperament, it is hard to 
ive him dead. We all loved him so much! Oh, 
if we e..tild di-cn ver the cowardly a*<as>iii ! Sometimes 
I \\nndcr if it may not have been the man uhom lic- 
ence 80 mercile- i. <Jod knows I do not. 
;ipts upon hi< life wen- many times made, luit his 
acute perceptions had always, hitherto, \\arned him of 
danger. 

Lcnore is with IK. We shall keep her until 
lover comes in the future to rob us of her. Sho is a 
rare child almost a woman now as talented as her 
fitlier, and exceedingly lovely. At present -he i- ,,v.-r- 
wlieltned with grief, and clings to Kleaimr, who is her 
best comforter. In our love for her we try to 
some of the debt wo owe her father. 

THE END. 



Thii book U DUE on the latt 
date ttamped below. 



II 



: 
1995 

DUE 2 MS FROM MIL KtCEIVE! 




REC'Dfltr 

lit 

ir 

, ' ; - " : 
lUL/V 

nynks HlllW liAit RECEIVED; 

tWY-Tt-lb 1388,470 IMMIMBTOM -AMD INO. to 



Victor - 



129 The dead letter 
'66d 



PS 

3129 

V66d 



3 1158 00081 0316